EPA to finalize repeal of Obama-era clean water regulation

Katie Ramirez
September 13, 2019

Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, who is expected to announce the revised rule, argued in December that the agency's revised definition restored power to states and provided greater clarity for landowners.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said repealing the rule was "at the top of the list" of items the administration wanted to roll back, because it was an "egregious power grab".

Today's rule will lead to an increase in the dumping of toxic waste in wetlands and streams across the United States and allow the destruction of millions of acres of wetlands critical to endangered wildlife.

Earthjustice and other environmental groups on Thursday warned that the Trump administration repeal will threaten drinking water and weaken safeguards that help reduce flooding and filter out pollution from streams and wetlands. Wheeler unveiled a proposed replacement regulation last December.

"It has now been four years of constant litigation since the 2015 rule came out", said Scott Edwards, director of Food & Water Justice. "It also put more local land-use decisions in the hands of unelected bureaucrats". Americans drained about half of the 220 million acres of wetlands in the contiguous United States between the 1780s and 1980s, most of it to expand farmland.

He added that it fulfills one of President Donald Trump's "key promises".

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"The Trump Administration's radical repeal of the Clean Water Rule ends the common-sense, science-based protections for the streams our kids swim in, play in, and fish from". Promulgated in 2015, the Clean Water Rule clarified the definition of "waters of the United States" and the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. 'Where it has been enforced, it has protected important waterways and wetlands, providing certainty to all stakeholders'.

But Don Parrish, congressional relations director for the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the 2015 regulation that extended federal protection to many USA wetlands and waterways created uncertainty about where farmers could cultivate land. "So even if the consequences to the Northwest are not severe right now, in six months we're looking at massive losses of wetland protections".

But Laura DeYoung, who runs a small sheep farm near Peninsula, Ohio, said she favored federal oversight to protect Lake Erie, where agricultural phosphorus runoff is blamed for large algae blooms. President Trump made a promise to farmers across the nation and I applaud him for keeping it by repealing these outrageous regulations.

Bad news for clean water.

But environmental advocates are blasting the change, saying it removes protections for water supplies including wetlands and seasonal streams. Courts blocked it from ever taking effect in others including Iowa. Thursday's action extended the refutation to the remaining 22 states and returned standards to 1986 levels.

Betsy Southerland, a top EPA official during the Obama years, calls the repeal a "victory for land developers, oil and gas drillers, and miners". It directs leadership and staff in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and the Office of Research and Development to prioritize ongoing efforts and to direct existing resources toward additional activities that will demonstrate measurable impacts in the reduction of animal testing while ensuring protection of human health and the environment.

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