The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it would be rolling back some federal water protections. The changes will affect environmental protections of various streams, wetlands, and ground waterways.
The Trump administration has repealed former President Barack Obama’s Waters of the United States rule, which tightened regulations of water resource management under a provision of the Clean Water Act of 1972. Farmers, fossil fuel producers, and real estate developers have led the protests against the rules enacted under Obama’s EPA.
Obama’s rule protected around 60 percent of the nation’s waterways, including seasonal streams and smaller headwaters and wetlands that eventually flow into larger bodies of water. It also limited chemical and pollutant discharge into these waters.
President Donald Trump has replaced the Waters of the United States rule with his own Navigable Waters Protection Rule. In addition to rolling back protections of certain wetlands and streams that run intermittently or run temporarily underground, the new rule eliminates the need for landowners to seek special permits from the EPA.
At the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Texas this past weekend, Trump announced his plans to repeal the Waters of the United States rule.
“I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all: the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule. That was a rule that basically took your property away from you.”
Under the new rule, landowners and property developers reportedly could dump harmful chemicals and pollutants, including pesticides and fertilizer, into thousands of waterways. The removal of wetland protections may allow developers to destroy wetlands for construction projects.
Blan Holman, a lawyer at the Southern Environmental Law Center, expressed his concerns about the rollbacks to the The New York Times.
“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen. This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.”
The new policy is potentially a win for farmers and fossil fuel groups, who have lobbied for the removal of Obama’s water regulations.
Karen Harbert, chief executive officer of the American Gas Association, believes that Trump’s rule will restore the proper balance between federal and state regulation of U.S. waters and allow for the construction of important infrastructure.
Experts worry that the new rule will expose millions of acres of streams and wetlands to pollution and destruction while destroying wildlife in the process.
The federal waterway protection rollbacks come just a couple of weeks after President Trump announced new policies to curtail the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, which requires new federal infrastructure projects to undergo comprehensive reviews to assess their impact on the environment, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.