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Trump Administration Dropping Obama-Era 'Clean Water Rule'

EPA chief calls it an 'egregious power grab,' but environmentalists are concerned
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 12, 2019 1:43 PM CDT
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In this July 11, 2018, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks to EPA staff at EPA Headquarters in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

(Newser) – The Trump administration is revoking an Obama-era regulation that shielded many US wetlands and streams from pollution but was opposed by developers and farmers who said it hurt economic development and infringed on property rights. Even before the official announcement, scheduled for later Thursday, environmental groups blasted the administration's action, the latest in a series of moves to roll back environmental protections put into place under former President Obama, the AP reports. The Waters of the United States rule being revoked defines which waterways are subject to federal regulation. President Trump had ordered the agencies to develop a replacement policy that has a more restrictive definition of protected wetlands and streams, leaving fewer subject to federal protection.

The question of which waters are covered under 1972's Clean Water Act has inspired decades of lawsuits and congressional debate. A sharply divided Supreme Court in 2006 produced three differing opinions, leading the Obama administration to craft its rule. "This action officially ends an egregious power grab and sets the stage for a new rule that will provide much-needed regulatory certainty for farmers, home builders and property owners nationwide," EPA chief Andrew Wheeler and RD James, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, wrote in a column published Thursday by the Des Moines Register. But environmentalists say the move would leave millions of Americans with less safe drinking water and allow damage of wetlands that prevent flooding, filter pollutants and provide habitat for a multitude of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife.

(Read more Environmental Protection Agency stories.)

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