A new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water ruling will protect streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction. The rule, announced by President Barack Obama on Wednesday, is a clarification of the Clean Water Act, specifying which streams and wetlands are under protection by the EPA. The move will add to Obama‘s record of taking executive action on environmental protection.


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Under the current Clean Water Act, the EPA says, 60 percent of the nation’s streams and wetlands are not clearly protected, which leaves them vulnerable to pollution or destruction.

“We may have different opinions on how we best protect our water resources, but we can all agree that clean water matters, and that it deserves our protection,” U.S. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in a recent blog post.

A pair of Supreme Court decisions, one in 2001 and one in 2006, left the status of certain important wetlands, headwaters and other water bodies unclear. While the new ruling sets out to protect these waters, it will only add about 3 percent to the EPA’s jurisdiction.

Related: American Farm Bureau prepares for climate change-driven drought

The new rule, drafted by both the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been under attack by farmers, business groups, and local governments. Under the banner of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, The American Farm Bureau has led the opposition, lobbying against increased environmental regulation and protection for wetlands. The bureau has expressed concern that the rule will give the EPA authority over farm ditches, agricultural ponds, and “any low spot where rainwater collects”.

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However, the EPA says, “Any normal farming activity that does not result in a point source discharge of pollutants into waters of the U.S. still does not require a permit” and that farmers are exempt from requiring permits when it comes to “normal farming, silviculture, and ranching practices.”

+ Download a PDF copy of the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule

Via LA Times

Images via Kelly Fike/USFWS, Rodney Campbell and Tom Gill