On Thursday, the Trump administration repealed the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, an Obama-era policy designed to protect waterways. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the EPA plans to reinstate 1980s water rules. The EPA and U.S. Army will decide this winter which waterways to regulate.
“Today’s Step 1 action fulfills a key promise of President Trump and sets the stage for Step 2 — a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders and developers nationwide,” Wheeler said in a statement.
WOTUS stipulated which wetlands and streams would be protected from pesticides, fertilizer, mine waste and other pollutants under the 1972 Clean Water Act. But farmers, miners and other industry players complained the policy was overreach, interfering with their business interests.
The states are divided on WOTUS and its repeal. Twenty-two states — as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. territories — have been following the Obama-era policy, while 27 states never moved on from the ’80s regulations. California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, no friend of Trump, plans to fight the repeal, which would cut federal protection to California’s water. Meanwhile, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is celebrating.
Environmental groups, including Earthjustice, worry that repealing WOTUS will imperil safe drinking water and thwart safeguards against pollution and flooding. “President Trump’s administration wants to turn back the clock to the days of poisoned flammable water,” said Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice president. “This is shameful and dangerous.”
Nor were environmentalists impressed with the repeal being announced at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers, feeling this privileged industry over public health. Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group, said, “The EPA is no longer in the business of safeguarding our resources and protecting us from pollution, but is openly working to advance the agenda of those who profit from fouling our water and threatening our health.”
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