Last February 06, 2020, the Trump administration officially repealed the 2015 Clean Waters Rule of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Act, after suspending it on September 12, 2019 on the basis of a Supreme court ruling.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that after decades of court litigations, the Trump administration’s new “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” give famers, landowners, businesses as well as the American public, regulatory certainty when using their own land as they see fit, without need to hire lawyers in order to assert their right to do so.
Wheeler asserts that
The Trump administration’s WOTUS rule protects our waterways and the environment, while respecting the state governments and private property owners as well.”
That being the case, waterways including streams and wetlands will no longer be under federal protection against pollution as previously mandated by the 2015 Clean Waters Rule.
Background of the Repealed 2015 Clean Waters Rule
The Clean Waters Rule is a 2015 regulation promulgated under the Obama administration. Its publishing was in response to issues about lack of clarity of the WOTUS rule with regard to the scope by which legislators at multiple levels, researchers, scientists, activists industry members, and citizens of the U.S. can seek federal water protection.
As it was, the WOTUS Rule simply defined the coverage of federal management and regulation as pertaining to all bodies of water under U.S. federal jurisdiction
To clarify coverage of water resource management and regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published the Clean Waters Rule.
It defined the scope of federal water protection, by consistently including streams and wetlands that are hydrologically and ecologically connected to interstate waters, traditional navigable waters and territorial seas.
Obama’s Clean Waters Rule though has been contested through numerous legal challenges, which the subsequent Trump administration vowed to review, rescind or revise.
Criticisms Against the Trump Administration’s “Navigable Waters Protection Rule”
Betsy Southerland, former Director of EPA’s Office of Water – Science and Technology assails the roll back of the 2015 Clean Waters Rule as “socially unjust and scientifically indefensible.”
According to Ms. Southerland, limiting federal water protection to quite a small set of waterways and wetlands, denotes that pollution control and wetland protection will be transferred to companies engaged in mining, oil and gas production, and land development. Since these companies will not receive regulations over such matters, impairment of drinking water, disparagement of fisheries, and diminished flood control for communities are likely to happen.
Downstream communities who will be affected, will have to shoulder the costs of protecting themselves.