The Trump administration is modifying Obama-era environmental protections for the country’s waterways.
The administration issued new rules removing federal protections for half the nation’s wetlands and hundreds of thousands of small waterways, reported NPR.
In a draft letter posted online late in December, the EPA Science Advisory Board, largely made up of Trump administration appointees, said the revised definition rule "decreases protection for our Nation's waters and does not support the objective of restoring and maintaining 'the chemical, physical and biological integrity' of these waters."
The rule will not cover smaller ephemeral streams, which make up a large part of the waters in New Mexico, according to Rachel Conn of Amigos Bravos, a New Mexico-based conservation group which focuses on water issues.
"But they all drain into our bigger systems," said Conn. "And it is from these bigger systems that close to 300,000 New Mexicans receive their drinking water."
In September, the administration repealed Obama’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” regulation, which is a set of rules restricting dumping and development that affected the country’s rivers, streams, and wetlands. Now, the Trump administration is finalizing its own set of water rules that will allow for pesticides and fertilizers to be dumped in waterways and open up wetlands to new development, reported Slate.
“I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all: the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule,” said Trump during a speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Texas. “That was a rule that basically took your property away from you.”
“Legal experts say that Mr. Trump’s replacement rule would go further than simply repealing and replacing the 2015 Obama rule. It would also eliminate protections to smaller headwaters that have been implemented for decades under the 1972 Clean Water Act,” according to the New York Times.
Several state attorneys general are expected to join with environmental groups to sue to overturn the Trump water rule, and those groups are likely to cite those findings as evidence that the rule is not legally sound, reported New York Times.