Everything Must Go: Selling Out Our Rivers and Clean Water

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By Christopher Williams, American Rivers

President Trump’s first term is winding down, and the final year of any presidential term sees a flurry of proposed rules and other regulatory actions that seek to cement that president’s vision and legacy.  Unfortunately, the legacy of an administration that tasked the likes of former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as the stewards of our environment and natural resources was never likely to be one of strong protection for rivers and clean water and wise stewardship of our natural resources.

In fact, the fire sale of regulatory proposals coming from EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies threatens to upend decades of progress in protecting and restoring water quality, wetlands, and endangered species.  These proposals would undermine our most important environmental laws including the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). But we can tell EPA, the Corps, and USFS that whatever they’re selling, we’re not buying!

HERE ARE A FEW OF THE TERRIBLE DEALS ON OFFER:

The EPA/Corps final rule repealing the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule that affirmed the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction over small streams and wetlands is due to be released soon.  Soon after, a new rule is expected which will roll back protection for small streams and isolated wetlands across the U.S., stripping federal protection from an estimated 18% of streams and half of the nation’s wetlands currently protected by the CWA. When these rules hit the street, American Rivers and our partners will file suit in federal court to block them.  Click here for more information.

The Trump administration will soon issue final rules undermining the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), curtailing protection for threatened species, bringing economic considerations into listing decisions that should be based solely on science, and strictly limiting consideration of climate change (!) in species listing and protection decisions.  These changes were proposed under former Secretary Zinke and are coming to fruition under his successor, David Bernhardt, a long-time oil and gas lobbyist with a long history of antagonism to the ESA.  The conservation community is gearing up to fight this in Congress and in court.  American Rivers will work with our partners to ensure that the many fish and river-dependent wildlife under the Act’s protection have a champion in the fight.

Youth Climate Strike, Washington DC | Photo by Liam McAuliff
Youth Climate Strike, Washington DC | Photo by Liam McAuliff

The EPA recently published a proposed rule that would severely curtail the authority of states and tribes under Clean Water Act section 401 to affect federal dam, pipeline and other infrastructure construction and operations through state water quality certifications.  This authority is extremely important to states and tribes as it provides their citizens (all of us) a powerful say in federal infrastructure planning and licensing processes.  American Rivers has worked with states and tribes on many occasions to improve dam operations, fish populations, and river health using section 401, and we have defended this authority all the way to the Supreme Court.  Keep an eye out for an action alert that will provide you with an opportunity to make your voice heard on this important issue!

NEPA requires that federal agencies review the environmental effects of their projects and evaluate alternatives that might have a lesser impact on the environment and natural and cultural resources. As part of that review, the public is afforded ample opportunity to evaluate and comment on agency data and decision-making.  This common sense, look-before-you-leap law has resulted in hundreds of potentially destructive federal projects stopped or modified to mitigate their impacts on the environment.  The Trump administration is seeking to subvert NEPA through regulations to limit its scope and decisions that simply ignore its requirements.  A recent proposed NEPA regulation from the U.S. Forest Service would wall-off much of national forest management decision-making from public scrutiny, eliminating transparency into decisions potentially affecting the water supplies of 66 million Americans. American Rivers is fighting NEPA roll-backs on multiple fronts. See here and here for more information.

On rare occasions you can find a real bargain at an everything-must-go sale, but often what’s on offer is just a lot of junk that nobody wants.  Let’s let the Trump administration know that the regulatory rollbacks, lawless development, increased pollution, degraded wetlands, and lifeless rivers it’s selling belong in the dumpster.

Originally posted here.

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