For Immediate Release: Apr 15, 2019
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Trump’s Clean Water Debacle
Proposed Rewrite of WOTUS Threatens U.S. Water Security
Washington, DC —The Trump plan to dramatically limit the scope of the Clean Water Act will be a devastating blow to both water quality and availability, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Overall, PEER estimates as much as 60% of U.S. waters and wetlands, and up to 90% in the arid West, would lose federal legal protection.
April 15 marks the end of the public comment period for the Trump plan to rewrite the definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS). The PEER comments highlight that the plan would –
- Remove at least 1.35 million miles of streams (due to lack of data, this figure is likely a gross underestimate) and over 40 million acres of wetlands from Clean Water Act jurisdiction, exacerbating flooding and drinking water contamination for millions of Americans;
- Create a patchwork of jurisdictional versus non-jurisdictional waters, leading to confusion in the regulated community, rather than bring clarity as it claims; and
- Throw thousands of water pollution permits and cleanup plans in upstream waters open to challenge, leading to pollution of regulated downstream waters with no legal recourse.
“Of all the Trump environmental rollbacks, this is likely the worst in terms of both short- and long-term damage,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), noting that states and tribes lack the resources to fill the void in protecting these resources following a federal retreat. “The impact of polluting, draining, or filling thousands of streams and wetlands will be ecologically devastating.”
The PEER comments also highlight the lack of scientific basis for many of the proposed changes as well as a mangled cost-benefit analysis that totally ignores the benefits of clean water.
Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has declared clean water scarcity – not climate change – the top environmental threat.
“Advancing this WOTUS rewrite flies in the face of Administrator Wheeler’s stated concern for water security,” added Bennett, pointing out that EPA figures show that Obama’s 2015 Clean Water 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 Trump plan will drive U.S. water security back to the level of a developing nation.”