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The Trump Administration's Plan to Eliminate the Clean Water Rule

The Trump administration announced plans to eliminate the Clean Water Rule, which ensured protections to tributaries and streams previously not covered by the Clean Water Act The White House stated that President Trump would “refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting” the nation’s air and water

  • The Clean Water Rule covered more than half of the nation’s bodies of water, and protects the drinking water sources of one in three Americans.
  • The Clean Water Rule is vital for protection of waters that help drive $144.7 billion in economic activity per year.
  • Quinnipiac found that 80% of American voters supported the Clean Water Rule

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The Trump Administration Announced That It Planned To Eliminate The Clean Water Rule, Commonly Known At The Waters Of The United States Rule

The Trump Administration Planned To Eliminate The Clean Water Rule Alongside The Climate Action Plan

The Trump Administration Announced That It Was “Committed To Eliminating” The Water Of The U.S. Rule, Along With The Climate Action Plan. According to The White House, “President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.” [White House, accessed 1/20/17]

  • The Clean Water Rule Was Commonly Referred To As The Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) Rule. According to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “The ‘Clean Water Rule,’ commonly referred to as the ‘waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) rule, was signed by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy on May 27, 2015 in a picturesque signing ceremony hosted by the National Wildlife Federation on the banks of Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia River.” [U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 10/27/16]

The Trump Administration Intended To “Refocus The EPA On Its Essential Mission Of Protecting” Air And Water

The Trump Administration Claimed That Eliminating The Waters Of The U.S. Rule, Along With The Climate Action Plan, Would Increase Wages By “More Than $30 Billion” By 2024. According to The White House, “For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.” [White House, accessed 1/20/17]

The Trump Administration Stated That It Would “Refocus The EPA On Its Essential Mission Of Protecting Our Air And Water.” According to The White House, “President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.” [White House, accessed 1/20/17]

The Clean Water Rule Expanded Protections For More Than Half Of America’s Bodies Of Water

The Waters Of The United States Rule Clarified Which Waterways Were Covered By The Clean Water Act, And Ensured Protections For Tributaries. According to Politico, “On its face, the Waters of the United States rule is largely a technical document, defining which rivers, streams, lakes and marshes fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. […] In essence, the rule would establish whether antipollution laws are triggered if a farmer blocks a stream to make a pond for livestock, a developer fills in part of a wetland to put up a house or an oil pipeline has to cross a creek. […] The final rule ensures protections for tributaries that have physical signs of flowing water, even if they don’t run all year round, and ditches that ‘look and act’ like tributaries, said Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.” [Politico, 5/27/15]

  • The WOTUS Rule Protected Two Million Miles Of Streams And 20 Million Acres Of Wetlands That Had Previously Not Been Designated Under The Clean Water Act. According to ThinkProgress, “The Waters of the United States rule, developed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, offers protection to two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that, until now, were not clearly designated under the Clean Water Act.” [ThinkProgress, 5/27/15]
  • The Obama Administration’s Clean Water Regulation Applied To Approximately 60 Percent The Nation’s Bodies Of Water. According to The New York Times, “President Obama on Wednesday announced a sweeping new clean water regulation meant to restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. The rule, which would apply to about 60 percent of the nation’s bodies of water, comes as part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to use his executive authority to build a major environmental legacy, without requiring new legislation from the Republican-controlled Congress.” [New York Times, 5/27/15]

According To EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, The WOTUS Rule Would Not Implement Any New Requirements On The Agriculture Or Forestry Industries. According to ThinkProgress, “The Waters of the United States rule, developed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, offers protection to two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that, until now, were not clearly designated under the Clean Water Act. […] EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was clear that the new rule will not affect the ‘normal farming operations’ that are already carved out under the Clean Water Act. Under the rule, there will be no new requirements for agriculture or forestry, industries which will retain ‘all the decades long exemptions’ they currently enjoy, she said on the call Wednesday.” [ThinkProgress, 5/27/15]

Army Assistance Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy Said That The Army’s Civil Works Department “Had To Operate Under A Lot Of Confusion” Prior To The WOTUS Rule.  According to ThinkProgress, “‘We’ve had to operate under a lot of confusion,’ Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy said on a call Wednesday. ‘Our rule will make it clear which waters are covered and which waters aren’t.’” [ThinkProgress, 5/27/15]

Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt Called The WOTUS Rule “The Biggest Victory For Clean Water In A Decade.” According to The New York Times, “The E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed the rule, known as Waters of the United States, last spring. […] ‘Our rivers, lakes and drinking water can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,’ said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. ‘That’s why today’s action is the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.’” [New York Times, 5/27/15]

Quinnipiac Found That Eighty Percent Of American Voters Supported The Waters Of The United States Rule

A League Of Conservation Voters Poll Found That 80 Percent Of American Voters Supported The WOTUS Rule. According to ThinkProgress, “The Waters of the United States rule, developed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, offers protection to two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that, until now, were not clearly designated under the Clean Water Act. […] A League of Conservation Voters poll found that 80 percent of voters support the rule.” [ThinkProgress, 5/27/15]

Impact Of The Clean Water Rule

The Clean Water Rule Clarified Two Supreme Court Rulings That Limited Clean Water Act Protections

The Clean Water Rule Clarified Two Supreme Court Rulings That Limited Clean Water Act Protections. According to a web post from the Berkley Conservation Institute, “Together with administrative guidance issued in 2003 and 2008, two Supreme Court decisions in the 2000s removed Clean Water Act protections for at least 20 million acres of wetlands, particularly prairie potholes and other seasonal wetlands essential to waterfowl populations throughout the country. Intermittent streams that provide critical habitat for fish, especially trout, and feed into the public drinking water systems for more than 117 million Americans also were put at increased risk of pollution and destruction. […]The wording of the two Supreme Court decisions left state and federal regulators, landowners and manufacturers confused about which U.S. waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. ‘In a measured response to the Supreme Court’s decisions, the proposed rule will provide the clear direction necessary to conserve the nation’s wetlands and streams,’ said WMI President Steve Williams. ‘In addition, it provides practical and necessary exclusions for farming and forestry activities. The rule recognizes the essential value of clean water for our nation’s citizens and our fish and wildlife resources.’” [Berkley-Fishing.com/Berkley-Conservation-Institute, accessed 1/24/17]

One In Three Americans Got Their Drinking Water From Streams Protected By THe Clean Water Rule

One In Three Americans, Approximately 117 Million People, Get Their Drinking Water From Streams Protected By The Clean Water Rule. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “People depend on clean water for their health: About 117 million Americans – one in three people – get their drinking water from streams protected by the Clean Water Rule.” [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed 1/20/17]

National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger: “Drinking Water Supplies For More Than One-Third Of Americans Will Be Safer” Under The Clean Water Rule. According to a web post from the Berkley Conservation Institute, “Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency jointly released a proposed rule that would clearly define which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. This action would begin restoring longstanding protections to many of the nation’s wetlands, streams and lakes, conserving critical fish and wildlife habitat and providing flood control, cleaner drinking water and a host of other benefits. […] ‘This is a huge step forward for protecting America’s waters and wildlife,’ said Larry Schweiger, NWF president and CEO. ‘We simply cannot protect our rivers, lakes and bays without protecting the many small streams and wetlands that feed into them. Drinking water supplies for more than one-third of Americans will be safer once this rule is put into place.’” [Berkley-Fishing.com/Berkley-Conservation-Institute, accessed 1/24/17]

Clean Water Protections Were Beneficial To The Economy

EPA Administrator Gina Mccarthy: “Clean Water Is An Economic Driver – Fisherman, Hunters, And Wildlife Watchers Spent $144.7 Billion In 2011 Alone.” According to an interview with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy for Field and Stream, “[MCCARTHY:] Hunters know streams and wetlands are critical habitats for waterfowl, birds, and other wildlife. Before the Clean Water Rule, millions of acres of wetlands across the country were not clearly protected. Now that has changed. The Clean Water Rule also protects prairie potholes, Carolina and Delmarva bays, pocosins, western vernal pools in California, and Texas coastal prairie wetlands that impact downstream waters. In particular, the prairie potholes of the Midwest are vital to hunting in America, as they play host to 18 species of waterfowl. The rule also ensures that fields flooded for rice are excluded and can be used for water storage and bird habitat. Here we again see how clean water is an economic driver—fishermen, hunters, and wildlife watchers spent $144.7 billion in 2011 alone on activities, equal to 1 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.” [Gina McCarthy Interview – Field and Stream, 6/8/15]

American Sustainable Business Council Co-Founder David Brodwin: A Majority Of Small Business Owners Support The Clean Water Rule Because They “Directly Help” Bars, Restaurants, and Tourism, and Indirectly Help “Most Other Businesses.” According to an op-ed by American Sustainable Business Council co-founder David Brodwin for U.S. News and World Report, “Looking across these incidents and many more, there’s no doubt that clean water rules help some businesses while forcing others to spend money to improve their operations. Clean water rules directly help restaurants and bars, tourism services, recreation and fitness, and food and beverage producers. Clean water rules indirectly aid most other businesses whose consumers and employees count on clean water to live. That’s why large majorities of small business owners support clean water protections.” [David Brodwin – U.S. News and World Report, 6/8/15]

2014: Virginia Entrepreneur Jim Epstein Argued That The Protections Of The Clean Water Act, In Jeopardy Following The Supreme Court Decisions, Added Nearly $16 Billion In Economic Benefits “For Virginia Alone.” According to an op-ed by entrepreneur Jim Epstein for the Daily Progress, “Virginia’s future depends on clean water, but it’s currently in danger. From the state’s booming wine industry, to tourism surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, to our expansive agriculture industry, Virginia thrives on high-quality clean water. According to Ecological Economics Journal, the Clean Water Act of 1972 has added as much as $15.8 billion in economic benefits for Virginia alone. These protections are now in jeopardy, because two Supreme Court decisions have made it much more difficult to enforce the law.” [Jim Epstein – Daily Progress, 11/23/14]

Regulations To Protect Resources Were More Economically Efficient Than Cleaning Up After An Environmental Crisis

American Sustainable Business Council Co-Founder David Brodwin: Regulations To Protect Resources Were More Economically Efficient Than Cleaning Up After An Environmental Crisis. According to an op-ed by American Sustainable Business Council co-founder David Brodwin for U.S. News and World Report, “The market structures that tolerate pollution need to be disrupted. They are not economically efficient for the economy. Large scale water pollution is enormously costly. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico led to a $20 billion fund to settle damage claims. The cost to fishing in Louisiana was pegged at $2.5 billion and the cost to tourism in Florida at $3 billion. The much smaller chemical spill at Elk River in West Virginia cost the local economy $19 million per day, roughly 24 percent of the economic output of the region. In Ohio last year, blooms of toxic algae caused mostly by farm runoff hurt the tourist economy on Lake Erie’s south shore. Tourism there brings in $1.8 billion per year. In Toledo, Ohio, alone, in just one weekend, $3-$4 million was lost when restaurants and other businesses had to close due to lack of clean water.” [David Brodwin – U.S. News and World Report, 6/8/15]

The Clean Water Rule Was Supported By Sport Fishing Organizations, Who Said It Would “Better Protect Important Habitats For Fish And Wildlife”

The Clean Water Rule Was Supported By Sport Fishing Organizations, Who Said It Would “Better Protect Important Habitats For Fish And Wildlife.” According to a web post from the Berkley Conservation Institute, “Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency jointly released a proposed rule that would clearly define which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. This action would begin restoring longstanding protections to many of the nation’s wetlands, streams and lakes, conserving critical fish and wildlife habitat and providing flood control, cleaner drinking water and a host of other benefits. Several leading sportsmen’s organizations – the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Berkley Conservation Institute, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited and Wildlife Management Institute – applauded the release of the proposed rule, saying that it would better protect important habitats for fish and wildlife.” [Berkley-Fishing.com/Berkley-Conservation-Institute, accessed 1/24/17]

American Fly Fishing Trade Association President Ben Bulis: Recreational Fishing And Hunting Can Generate “$200 Billion In Total Economic Activity” Per Year. According to a web post from the Berkley Conservation Institute, “According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the rate of wetlands loss accelerated by 140 percent from 2004 to 2009, the years immediately after the Supreme Court rulings. ‘The economic benefits to the United States from these wetlands and streams are staggering,’ said AFFTA president Ben Bulis. ‘For example, direct spending on hunting and fishing totals $86 billion each year in the United States, which ripples through the economy, generating $200 billion in total economic activity annually.’” [Berkley-Fishing.com/Berkley-Conservation-Institute, accessed 1/24/17]

The Clean Water Rule Benefitted The Water Quality Across The U.S., Including Coastal Regions

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Without The Clean Water Rule, The U.S. Is “Only Halfway To Meeting The Clean Water Act’s Goals.” According to an interview with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy for Field and Stream, “[FIELD AND STREAM:] Americans tend to have an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to things these days. Is water quality in the U.S. actually getting worse without this new rule? [MCCARTHY:] We’ve made great progress in improving water quality in the U.S. since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. We’ve roughly doubled the number of waters that are swimmable and fishable, from one-third to two-thirds—but that’s only halfway to meeting the Clean Water Act’s goals. We still have many polluted waterways to clear up.” [Gina McCarthy Interview – Field and Stream, 6/8/15]

The Clean Water Rule Benefitted The Ocean And Coastal Regions Of The U.S. According to ThinkProgress, “To inform the rulemaking, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a comprehensive study on the connectivity of streams and wetlands to downstream waters, and concluded that ‘incremental contributions of individual streams and wetlands are cumulative across entire watersheds.’ As the ultimate destination of most watersheds, coastal waters will reap the sum of these incremental water quality protections. ‘Our ocean is impacted by the estuaries and bays that flow into it, and those bays in turn are impacted by the streams and wetlands that flow into them,’ said Elizabeth Ouzts, a spokesperson for Environment America. ‘Fully protecting our coastal waters means fully protecting the wetlands and streams they depend on.’” [ThinkProgress, 6/3/15]