The Trump Administration is trying to ram through the worst gutting of the Clean Water Act in history, stripping away protection from many of the streams and more than half of the wetlands in the United States.
The rule adopts a new definition for “waters of the United States” which are to be protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), defying what previous administrations and courts have determined was the intent of Congress in adopting the CWA. The proposed new definition radically shrinks the waters and wetlands protected under the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule, knocking out protections for an estimated 18% of streams and 51% of wetlands in the United States today.
Some parts of North Carolina could lose protection for half of its streams. “We could see dramatic increases in number of streams plowed over, developed, paved,” if the repeal withstands legal challenges, said Geoff Gisler, attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). “There’s going to be a visible and noticeable difference in the quality of our waters.”
SELC called the new rule “an unprecedented move, removing Clean Water Act protections that have been in place for nearly fifty years,” which “would jeopardize the drinking-water sources for 200 million Americans.”
Environmental advocates argued vehemently against the Trump EPA rule change throughout the public review process. The overwhelming weight of evidence entered into the records show there is no sound scientific basis for the changes, and if applied as law, they will produce enormous environmental loss of clean water and wetlands resources.
As widely expected, the Trump Administration ignored the environment, the science, and the law to approve the newly gutted rules anyway. League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Deputy Legislative Director Madeleine Foote said, “President Trump is engaging in an all-out assault on our clean water safeguards. This gutting of vital Clean Water Act protections takes us backwards on the progress we’ve made in cleaning up our waterways and puts the health of our families at risk for the sole benefit of Trump’s corporate friends. Even some of Trump’s own appointees disagree with this decision which ignores science, disregards the intent of the law, and will turn our streams into dumping grounds for big polluters and destroy millions of acres of wetlands.”
The new rule will take effect in late March if not blocked by the courts in the interim. However, multiple legal challenges are underway, and are certain to contain strong requests for blocking the rule’s implementation until the cases have been heard.