Water Protections in Place for Decades to Be Gone Within Days

Lawsuits expected to follow rule change under Trump
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2020 9:35 AM CST
Water Protections in Place for Decades to Be Gone Within Days
An egret looks for food along Valhalla Pond in Riverview, Fla., on Dec. 11, 2018.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

In the end, government scientists couldn't sway him. President Trump's administration is expected to finalize a change to an Obama-era regulation protecting many US wetlands and streams as soon as Thursday. "More than half the nation's wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways" will lose federal protection when the Waters of the United States rule, repealed in September, is replaced with a new rule limiting which waterways are subject to regulation, per the New York Times. Large bodies of water will remain protected, as will major tributaries and adjacent wetlands. But other wetlands and some seasonal and transient steams will be open to pollution and development, including some 90% of streams flowing into the Colorado River, which supplies water to 17 states, in a move painted as a win for farmers, per the Times.

"Farmers coalesced against the EPA being able to come onto their land, and [Trump's] delivering," a Republican strategist says. However, the AP reports that those in business and real estate "stand to reap the biggest regulatory and financial relief." "This administration's eliminating clean water protections to protect polluters instead of protecting people," Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Blan Holman tells the AP. "This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the '70s and '80s that Americans have relied on for their health," he adds, per the Times. In December, the EPA's own Science Advisory Board found the proposed change "neglects established science"—an argument likely to appear in lawsuits brought by state attorneys general and environmental groups. (More Trump administration stories.)

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