Dismantling the water rule you (and your favorite fisheries) always wanted
This week the Trump administration continued its undo-a-thon against all things labeled “Obama”, firing its latest rollback at the former president’s controversial 2015 Clean Water Rule.
The rule, otherwise knows as Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), was engineered to give the Clean Water Act of 1972 a broader sense of purpose, empowering the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect navigable rivers as well as non-navigable tributaries from pollution, including 60 percent of stream miles in the U.S. that flow seasonally.
Those same clean, pristine headwaters house important wildlife habitat and are essential to species such as wild steelhead, salmon, and resident trout. A third of Americans, whose drinking water comes from similar places, also appreciate them. So why squash their protections?
Job-suffocating federal overreach is the main complaint. And WOTUS, since its inception, has had a long list of haters from an all-star lineup of polluters—including: pesticide manufacturers, mining companies, the timber industry, railroad corps, real estate developers, and of course golf course moguls.
The same miners, tree cutters, and putters, alongside the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, represent a powerful, vocal minority. Rule supporters, on the other hand, once included about 80 percent of Americans. And WOTUS was finalized after hundreds of public meetings, upon receiving more than a million favorable public comments, and following an extensive scientific review process.
"It’s been widely vetted, it’s what the public wants, and this is a complete disregard of public sentiment," said Aaron Kindle of the National Wildlife Federation, which joined groups such as TU and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association this week in asking Trump to think carefully about how he'd revise the rule.
Regardless of whether rewritten from scratch or entirely scrapped, Waters of the U.S. currently sits in legal limbo. In fall 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit “stayed” the Clean Water Rule nationwide. And the new chief of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, patted himself on the back. While serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt sued the same federal agency he now runs over WOTUS. Pruitt was also lurking around on Tuesday when Trump signed the executive order to begin the rollback process.
A quick reminder of what's at stake: