Clean Water Apocalypse
Each passing week, there is mounting competition for the most damaging environmental reversal proposed by the Trump administration. This week’s contestant may be the worst yet.
In 2017, Trump ordered EPA to dramatically limit the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act, one of the pillars of American environmental law. That proposal emerged this week and it is jaw-dropping in how bad it is:
- As much as 60% of U.S. waters and wetlands, and up to 90% in the arid West, would no longer be protected. This will greatly exacerbate already growing water shortages;
- Drinking water sources for most of the country would be at risk. For example, EPA determined that the 2015 Obama rule, which expanded Clean Water Act coverage by less than 5%, affects the drinking water sources for 117 million people, one out of three Americans. This latest Trump plan threatens far more source waters; and
- The millions of acres of wetlands that could be filled or drained would greatly weaken U.S. flood control, strip urban hurricane buffers, as well as decimate fish and wildlife habitat.
Like his approach to Obamacare, Trump wants to repeal and replace the Obama Clean Water Rule. While his repeal proposal is still pending, the replacement, which was just unveiled is based upon a 2005 opinion by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. It limits Clean Water Act coverage to “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water” – that is, streams, rivers, and lakes. Wetlands could potentially be included, but only when they have a “continuous surface connection” to other “waters of the United States.”
If a wetland or waterbody is not protected under the Clean Water Act, it could be filled, drained, or discharged into without any federal permit. Large scale developments, such as highways, pipelines, and mega-construction projects, will be able to avoid the permit process, as many states do not protect these waters.
Trump’s plan is a developer’s dream but an environmental nightmare. It is also a grave threat America’s water security.
This battle to safeguard more than half of all U.S. waterbodies is PEER’s top priority. Please join this fight.
Climate Dark Age Descending
As record levels of greenhouse gases are pumped into the globes atmosphere, the U.S. is sinking deeper into climate denial. Stung by its spectacularly counterproductive attempt to bury the latest national climate assessment on Black Friday, the Trump White House has directed its Cabinet to trash the report and prevent similar reports from issuing, according to talking points PEER has posted.
So, rather than continuing to ignore climate science, Trump officials are under orders to change scientific models and projections to avoid future such embarrassments. Climate science suppression efforts have already begun at EPA and within Interior.
PEER is assembling an effort to expose and push back against this new Trump anti-climate science effort and to provide free legal assistance to the scientists who authored the assessment. You can help.
Publish and Perish
Official promises to make federal scientific research transparent are belied by a maze of agency policies that prevent its publication, according to a new PEER legal analysis.
Political censorship and suppression of research is still occurring in science-based agencies while scientists have little legal recourse to prevent their work from being altered or squelched. A federal scientist who chooses to publish on any subject of controversy takes a big career risk if that work does not support or has implications that conflict with agency positions.
PEER is calling on the new Congress to adopt a bill we have drafted that, comparable to the Whistleblower Protection Act, establishes a clear and enforceable open publication rule for all civilian agencies.
In 2016, PEER won a federal court order directing removal of illegal levels of hazardous chemicals in all Malibu public schools. We are representing Malibu’s school-teachers, several of whom are suffering PCB-related illnesses.
Now, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District wants to significantly postpone the 2019 effective date of the court order If granted, its legal motion would keep students and teachers inside dangerously contaminated buildings until December 31, 2024.
PEER is challenging the District’s latest maneuver which would result in more than a decade of illegal exposure of students, teachers, staff and others to PCB-contaminated rooms since PCBs were first found.
Please support our effort to shield teachers and students from toxic threats.
This giving season, consider PEER when considering donations to Combined Federal Campaign (#12057), State Campaigns or other workplace giving campaigns. Every dollar we receive goes directly to programs supporting scientists under political pressure, fighting for transparency, and working to protect our nation’s public lands and water quality. We could use your help.