Today, September 12, the Trump administration is expected to complete the repeal of an Obama-era clean water regulation, loosening the rules on the use of chemicals near water sources.
The measure, known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, was introduced in 2015. It ensured Clean Water Act (CWA) programs were more precisely defined and protected, that tributaries and adjacent waters under federal jurisdiction are covered by the same act, and limited the use of chemicals near bodies of water.
The rule was designed to protect millions of acres of wetlands, as well as thousands of miles of streams and rivers across America, to make sure they were free from polluting chemicals, such as pesticides used in agriculture, and chemicals used in construction sites.
The rollback of the rule has been a long-held plan of Trump’s, with the president signing an executive order directing federal agencies to repeal and replace it early on in his administration, The New York Times reports.
Trump reportedly called Obama’s establishment of the rule a federal land-grab, and accused it of impinging on the rights of farmers, landowners and real estate developers.
His decision to repeal the Obama-era rule has caused major concerns, with environmentalists calling it an ‘assault’ on protecting America’s streams and wetlands, despite Trump saying the US has ‘crystal clean water and air’ earlier this year, as per POLITICO.
The repeal is expected to take effect in a matter of weeks, after it’s announced at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers, who penned the Obama-era rule, are then expected to implement a looser, replacement rule by the end of the year.
Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said:
With many of our cities and towns living with unsafe drinking water, now is not the time to cut back on clean water enforcement.
We need more, not less, protection for clean water.
Others, however, welcomed the loosening of the water restrictions. Farming groups, for example, a key political voting group for Trump, saw the Obama-era rule as a restriction on how they could use their land.
Don Parrish, director of regulatory relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said:
The rule that was developed in 2015 was a significant overreach. It overstepped the limit of protecting clean water and tried to regulate land use. It created liabilities that can end up putting farmers in jail.
The Water of the United States rule was designed to limit pollution for around 60 percent of America’s bodies of water, protecting drinking water sources for roughly a third of the country.
The rollback of WOTUS isn’t the only environmental rule the POTUS wants to change, as the administration has also proposed loosening regulations on emissions from cars, power plants, and oil and gas drilling rigs, as well as suggestions to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.