After years of effort, the Trump administration’s EPA rolled back the Obama-era rule to clarify the Clean Water Act and replaced it with a new water rule that could increase pollution. Called the Navigable Waters Act, the new rule narrows the definition of waters that can be protected by eliminating many small streams and wetlands that feed larger water bodies and filters drinking water.
These streams and wetlands are incredibly important because these waters help to determine drinking water quality, the water quality of residential and recreation areas and the overall health of watersheds. As Earthjustice, an environmental group suing the Trump administration, writes:
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own science advisors have said Trump’s rule threatens to weaken protection of the nation’s waters by disregarding the established connectivity of groundwaters. Trump’s Dirty Water Rule fails to protect ephemeral streams and wetlands that connect to navigable waters below the surface. Science advisors to Trump’s EPA emphasized that these changes are proposed without a supportable scientific basis, while potentially introducing substantial new risks to human and environmental health.
Although the Trump administration rule is in effect in 49 states — an injunction stopped it in Colorado — many lawsuits are in the pipeline and the law could be tied up in the courts for years to come.