Trump Administration to Roll Back Clean Water Protections – The New York Times

“When you take private property rights from a man whose worked all his life,” Mr. Duvall said, “that is very intrusive to him and it’s something he just can’t stand for.”

But environmentalists assailed the move. “With many of our cities and towns living with unsafe drinking water, now is not the time to cut back on clean water enforcement,” said Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

The Obama rule, developed under the authority of the 1972 Clean Water Act, was designed to limit pollution in about 60 percent of the nation’s bodies of water, protecting sources of drinking water for about one-third of the United States. It extended existing federal authority to limit pollution in large bodies of water, like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, to smaller bodies that drain into them, such as tributaries, streams and wetlands.

Under the rule, farmers using land near streams and wetlands were restricted from doing certain kinds of plowing and from planting certain crops, and would have been required to obtain E.P.A. permits in order to use chemical pesticides and fertilizers that could have run off into those bodies of water. Those restrictions will now be lifted.

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The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, which had worked together to write the original Obama rule, are expected to issue a new, looser replacement rule by the end of this year. It is expected that the new rule, still being developed, will retain federal protections for larger bodies of water, the rivers that drain into them and wetlands that are directly adjacent to those bodies of water.

But it will quite likely strip away protections of so-called ephemeral streams, in which water runs only during or after rainfalls, and of wetlands that are not adjacent to major bodies of water or connected to such bodies of water by a surface channel of water. Those changes would represent a victory for farmers and rural landowners who lobbied the Trump administration aggressively to make them.

Lawyers said the interim period between the completion of the legal repeal of the Obama rule and the implementation of the new Trump rule this year could be one of regulatory chaos for farmers and landowners, however.

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