Press

Repealing Clean Water Rule Creates Uncertainty for $887B Outdoor Recreation Economy

06/28/2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite its broad public support and benefits for fish and wildlife habitat, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency have begun the process of rescinding the 2015 Clean Water Rule that clarified protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. This is the first step in a two-step process to replace the rule, set into motion by an executive order in February 2017.

“If the president intends to fulfill his stated goal of having the cleanest water, he should direct his administration to identify paths forward for defending and implementing the Clean Water Rule based on sound science, regulatory certainty, and the national economic benefits of clean water,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Instead, today's action to rescind the rule puts at risk the fish and wildlife that rely on more than 20 million acres of wetlands and 60 percent of the country's streams, while the process for ensuring the protection of these clean water resources remains unclear.” 

President Trump’s order directed the agencies to consider revising the rule with an eye toward minimizing regulatory uncertainty and cited former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion that seasonal streams and many wetlands do not merit protection. But hunters and anglers consider this vital habitat.

“The repeal-and-replace plan is likely to roll back Clean Water Act protections for a majority of the nation’s streams and wetlands, including the headwaters that are so important for trout and other species of fish, plus millions of acres of seasonal wetlands that store flood waters and provide essential habitat for more than half of North American migratory waterfowl and a diverse array of other birds, amphibians, and reptiles,” says Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Today’s hasty and haphazard repeal disrespects the broad public support and strong legal and scientific basis for the Clean Water Rule and fails to replace the rule’s clarity.”

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers spent four years reviewing available science and engaging stakeholders to finalize the rule. Sportsmen, conservation groups, and many other stakeholders generated one million public comments to help shape the end product, which was celebrated for its potential to reverse a troubling trend of wetlands loss. The move is also expected to impact outdoor recreation businesses that depend on certainty around clean water and healthy fish and wildlife habitat. The outdoor recreation industry fuels $887 billion in annual spending and supports 7.6 million jobs, including 483,000 jobs directly related to hunting and fishing. Many of these activities occur in headwater streams and wetland systems that would be under threat of pollution or destruction without the clarity of the 2015 Clean Water Rule.

“Clean water is a basic right of every American, “said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “To be effective, the Clean Water Act must be able to control pollution at its source, upstream in the headwaters and wetlands that flow downstream through communities to our major lakes, rivers, and bays. EPA’s action places the health of 60 percent of the stream miles in the U.S. at risk. Trout Unlimited intends to work with our hundreds of thousands of members and supporters to convince EPA to reverse course on this misguided direction,” said Wood.

Going forward, sportsmen want this administration to maintain strong Clean Water Act protection of waters and wetlands. With the rule’s rescission today, an earlier regulation coupled with a 2008 interim guidance document will drive the federal government’s decisions on Clean Water Act protections for sensitive streams and wetlands. These decisions will once again be made on a case-by-case basis, throwing tremendous uncertainty back into the decision-making process.

“The Clean Water Rule is critically important to improving and protecting water quality nationwide,” says Scott Kovarovics, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America. “It is based on extensive science but also common sense, which tells us that it is impossible to improve water quality in our rivers and lakes unless the small streams flowing to them are also protected from pollution.”

The TRCP is asking sportsmen and women to support the conservation benefits of the 2015 Clean Water Rule during the public comment period on the EPA’s decision to rescind the rule.

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Contact: Kristyn Brady, 617-501-6352, kbrady@trcp.org