Science & Technology

Trump administration suspends Obama-era clean water rule

President Donald Trump has officially postponed a clean water regulation proposed by the Barack Obama administration in 2015. His goals are to create his own version of the proposal, a version less severe on farmers and real estate developers.

According to the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, the Waters of the United States rule was created by the EPA to regulate the pollution in wetlands and tributaries running into the nation’s largest rivers. Pruitt mentioned that the current rule imposes severe regulations on private land.

WOTUS regulates pollution in approximately 60 percent of the country’s bodies of water. In other words, this rule gives the federal government authority over natural entities such as wetlands, rivers and streams.

Revoking WOTUS only reveals that the Trump administration is determined to promote fossil fuel production and economic activity, even when those activities collide with environmental conservation.

If Trump maintained Obama’s clean water management rule, then the regulation would have limited the use of pollutants such as chemical fertilizers that could run off into small streams.

“The Clean Water Rule protects the bodies of water that feed the drinking water supply for one in three Americans,” said Jon Devine, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is racing the clock to deny protections for our public health and safety. It’s grossly irresponsible, and illegal – and we’ll change it in court.”

Although environmentalists are not happy with the Trump administration’s decision, farmers, ranchers, coal workers and developers are more than content. This demographic has supported Trump since the beginning of his campaign.

On Thursday, Feb. 1, Trump asserted, “The miners are a big deal, I’ve had support from some of these folks right from the very beginning, and I won’t forget it.”

A major reason farmers and ranchers dislike WOTUS is due to its strict regulations. Developers dislike the rule because it increases their cost of conducting business.

Trump asserted that, “Waters as suggested by Obama administration was a massive power grab. The EPA’s regulators were putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands. Regulations and permits started treating our wonderful small farmers and small businesses as if they were major industrial
polluters.”

Agriculture groups claim farmers could lose their ranches or farmlands because of the regulations. On Tuesday, Jan. 30, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association released a statement that said, “This extremely flawed rule would force ranchers and feedlot operators to get permits or risk excessive penalties despite being miles away from any navigable water.”

The trade association and lobbying group also added, “It would be one of the largest federal land grabs and private-property infringements in American history, and the president should be applauded for making EPA and the Corps reconsider this atrocity.”

The National Association of Home Builders filed a federal court brief challenging WOTUS, calling the rule a “deeply flawed, arbitrary written regulation.” The brief claimed that federal permits create delays and raise costs. Most importantly, the rule hurts housing affordability.

The American Farm Bureau Federation argues that the water rule regulation could require farmers to pay significant fees to gain federal permission for filling in areas on their property.

This could indefinitely delay or even stop the farmers’ operations.

Thus, the WOTUS rule drafted by the Obama administration will not be applicable for the next two years. This allows time for the Trump administration to create looser regulations, enabling polluters to continue contaminating the sources of water for U.S. citizens, simply to increase interstate
commerce.

Janette Brimmer, a lawyer with the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice, said, “The Trump administration is playing politics with our drinking water. This delay is an obvious attempt to make it easier for corporate interests to pollute our waterways.”

February 13, 2018

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Juan Carlos Vergara


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