Trump Administration Repeals Clean Water Regulations
“It’s going to be chaos. We’re going to see suits brought all over the country.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) repealed an Obama-era rule on Thursday that expanded the federal government’s regulatory power over much of the nation’s water bodies.
The Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, restricted the use of pollutants near wetlands, streams, and other water bodies in order to protect the country’s drinking water. Opponents of the Clean Water Rule included many agricultural groups who viewed it as federal overreach and intrusive on their ability to use certain pesticides and fertilizers.
“Today’s final rule puts an end to an egregious power-grab,” EPA head Andrew Wheeler said Thursday in a news conference. Notably, Wheeler worked for coal giant Murray Energy before joining the Trump administration, a company that has paid millions in fines for contaminating water.
Wheeler argued the deregulation would mean “farmers, property owners and businesses will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit and more time building infrastructure.” Court rulings had already stalled the Clean Water Act in 28 states, and the EPA’s change would slash the protections for the remaining 22.
Supporters of the rule point to the severe contamination already present in America’s drinking water, from PFOA ‘forever chemicals’ throughout the nation to lead contamination in Flint, Michigan. Research from the Environmental Working Group estimated that the removal of the Obama-era protections could threaten the drinking water of about 117 million people nationwide.
Critics argue the Trump administration’s environmental regulatory rollbacks represent the prioritization of corporate profits over public health. Numerous veterans of DowDupont work in the Department of Agriculture, a former Monsanto executive has been nominated to head the Fish and Wildlife Service, and former fossil fuel lobbyists run the EPA and Interior Department.
The Trump administration has notably vowed to “have Monsanto’s back” on glyphosate regulations, and fought against bans on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to severe brain damage in children, among numerous other regulatory rollbacks.
“Clean water is essential to all life, but instead of protecting it, the Trump administration is giving Big Polluters another handout,” said Marcie Keever, a program director for Friends of the Earth. “Vulnerable communities who already suffer from a lack of access to clean water will be put at even greater risk by this immoral decision.”
Environmentalists Vow To Fight Back
While some are concerned the change will be hard to reverse in the Supreme Court after Trump’s appointments of conservative judges Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, environmentalists have pledged to fight the decision.
“It’s going to be chaos,” Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard Law School, told the New York Times. “We’re going to see suits brought all over the country.”
“This administration has shown nothing but disdain for America’s natural heritage and the wildlife we cherish,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll fight this illegal rollback and every aspect of Trump’s incredibly harmful anti-environmental agenda.”
“This repeal is outrageous,” said Bob Wendelgass, president and CEO of Clean Water Action, as per Common Dreams, “but it’s just one part of a broad assault on fundamental protections for our water—and we’re not going to let the Trump administration win.”