The Trump administration on Thursday announced the repeal of a major Obama-era clean water regulation that had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and other bodies of water.
The rollback of the 2015 measure, known as the Waters of the United States rule, adds to a lengthy list of environmental rules that the administration has worked to weaken or undo over the past two and a half years. Those efforts have focused heavily on eliminating restrictions on fossil fuel pollution, including coal-fired power plants, automobile tailpipes, and oil and gas leaks, but have also touched on asbestos and pesticides.
The repeal of the water rule, which is expected to take effect in a matter of weeks, has implications far beyond the pollution that will now be allowed to flow freely into streams and wetlands from farms, mines and factories. With Thursday’s announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency is aiming to establish a stricter legal definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, a precedent that could make it difficult for future administrations to take actions to protect waterways.
Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the Vermont Law School, said that, for conservative states and leaders who hold the view that the Clean Water Act has been burdensome for farmers and industry, “this is an opportunity to really drive a stake through the heart of federal water protection.” [Continue reading…]