Environmental advocates warn proposed EPA rule could remove pollution and development protections from most U.S. waterways
On Dec. 12, the EPA unveiled their new proposal on the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). The proposal would ease Washington’s oversight of small bodies of water, undoing a regulation President Donald J. Trump has called “a massive power grab.”
According to USA Today, environmental advocates warn the proposed rule could remove pollution and development protections from most U.S. waterways and pose effects on the safety of the nation’s tap water for more than 100 million Americans.
“Even a child understands that small streams flow into large streams and lakes – which provide drinking water for so many Americans,” said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources for the Environmental Working Group, to USA Today. “By removing safeguards and allowing industry to dump pollutants into these water sources, Trump’s EPA is ensuring more contamination challenges for utilities and dirtier water for their customers.”
Opponents of the Obama-era WOTUS say the old rule prevented farmers from being able to fully use their land.
“The old rule put Washington in control of ponds, puddles, and prairie potholes," said Wyoming GOP Sen. Tom Barrasso, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, to USA Today. "The regulation was so confusing that property owners and businesses could not determine when permits were needed."
The proposal has been receiving both positive and negative reviews from across the country.
According to The Intelligencer, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey praised the proposal.
“I join farmers, land owners and countless others in praising EPA’s commitment to seeking to permanently replace the Obama-era rule with a more sensible and lawful approach to regulation,” Morrisey said in a news release, according to The Intelligencer. “Our office will closely review EPA’s proposal to ensure our nation maintains high water quality, while minimizing the regulatory impact on farmers, job creators and land owners across West Virginia.”
Under this proposal, the Trump administration would remove federal protections for wetlands nationally unless they are connected to another federally protected waterway, and for streams, creeks, washes, ditches and ponds that exist only during rains.
“The Trump administration has just given a big Christmas gift to polluters,” said Bob Irvin, president of the American Rivers environmental nonprofit. “Americans all over the country are concerned about the safety of their drinking water — this is not the time to be rolling back protections.”