By Rhea Suh, Natural Resources Defense Council
The administration is moving to repeal the Clean Water Rule, which protects drinking water for one-third of Americans.
It’s summer, when Americans take to the nation’s rivers, beaches, lakes, and streams for recreation and enjoyment that reminds us of the vital link between clean water and life itself.
The Trump administration, though, didn’t get the memo: It’s putting American waters at risk. On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formally proposed to rescind the Clean Water Rule, a 2015 measure that provides commonsense safeguards for millions of acres of wetlands and nearly two million miles of small streams.
The Trump proposal to kill the rule strikes directly at public health. It would strip out needed protections for the streams that feed drinking water sources for one in every three Americans. Clean water is too important for that. We’ll stand up to this reckless attack on our waters and health―and I hope you’ll join me and do the same.
The Clean Water Rule was the result of years of study and public consultation. It clarifies the kinds of wetlands and streams we need to protect under the Clean Water Act to ensure the health of the larger waterways they feed, from great rivers and marshlands to brackish estuaries, bays, and coastal regions.
The rule was informed by more than 400 stakeholder meetings nationwide, more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, and more than a million public comments from small-business owners, farmers, conservationists, anglers, hunters, industry, and others—some 87 percent of whom supported the rule.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt claims to care about due process. In fact, he’s giving the public just 30 days to comment on his proposal to abandon this rule. That’s disgraceful. Four weeks, in the middle of the summer, to hear from the people on a rule that was years in the making and drew more than a million original comments? That’s not seeking public input; it’s ramming a bad idea down our throats and trying to dim the voice of the people
Why? The rule is opposed by powerful special interests in Washington―the oil and gas industry, for example, along with coal-mining companies, lobbyists for some large commercial developers, and even some golf course owners. At base, these actors don’t want to be held to account for activities that pollute our waters. Many of them sued the EPA to block the rule. They were joined by Pruitt, who was then attorney general of Oklahoma. While stakeholders litigated the case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit put the rule on hold in a 2015 ruling.
The Clean Water Rule, in other words, is not being implemented, nor are the essential protections it provides.
President Trump and his team have repeatedly misled the public about this important rule. Trump has said it would regulate “nearly every puddle.” It covers none. He’s claimed it would regulate “every ditch.” It wouldn’t. It does recognize, as the law always has done, that manmade waterways can be important tributaries that convey water, and whatever contaminants it might contain, to larger waterways. It treats manmade waterways just as they were treated under President George W. Bush.
Finally—and, of course—Trump has claimed that the rule threw people out of work “by the hundreds of thousands.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker awarded that whopper Four Pinocchios. Clean water is life, and it’s the lifeblood of our prosperity, relied on for manufacturing, farming, craft brewing, ranching, forestry, tourism, and many other facets of our economy.
And as long as water flows downstream, we can’t protect those drinking water sources without protecting the waters that feed them. That, though, is precisely what the Trump administration is suggesting that we do. “No longer will the EPA be telling you how to run your business or do your job or live your life,” Trump said at a political rally last week in Iowa. “Instead, it will focus on its true mission, clean air and clean, beautiful, crystal water. Nice, beautiful, clean water. That’s what we want, right? Right?”
Yes. And, in order to have clean water, we need laws to protect it from being polluted. That’s why we’re standing up for the Clean Water Rule. It does exactly that.