EPA Finalizes Navigable Waters Protection Rule

April 22, 2020

The EPA finalized rollbacks on stream and wetland protections

The Trump administration published a final rule rolling back environmental protections. 

The final rule, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, was written by the Engineers Corps and EPA, redefining the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. The changes remove limits on the amount of pollution that can be dumped into small streams and wetlands, according to the press release. 

According to the L.A. Times, approximately 81% of streams in the Southwest would lose protections. 

Four clear categories of waters are federally regulated, according to the rule, including:

  • The territorial seas and traditional navigable waters;
  • Perennial and intermittent tributaries to those waters;
  • Certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments, and;
  • Wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters

The final rule also details 12 categories of exclusions that are “not waters of the United States,” such as: features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall (e.g., ephemeral features); groundwater; many ditches; prior converted cropland; and waste treatment systems.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has announced plans to sue the Trump administration over the rollback, reported the Hill. The NRDC alleges that leaders failed to consider how it would impact endangered species.

In the EPA summary, the Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense and EPA claim the rule maintains federal authority over the nation's waters while preserving the states' primary authority over land and water resources. 

"This final definition increases the predictability and consistency of Clean Water Act programs by clarifying the scope of ‘waters of the United States’ federally regulated under the Act," according to the document.

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Cristina Tuser