Rewrite of the Clean Water Rule Writes Off Protections for Most Streams Nationwide
In February 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to repeal the Clean Water Rule defining the waters protected by the Clean Water Act. In addition, the president directed EPA and the Corps to replace the rule with a new one that considers the opinion written by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in Rapanos v. United States.
In his minority opinion, which was not adopted by the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia sought to dramatically reduce the waterbodies that would be protected by the Clean Water Act. His position is not based on science, the purpose of the Clean Water Act, or common sense. Many streams and wetlands would lose essential protections, including:
- 60 percent of streams in America: Since 6 in 10 streams do not flow continuously, many tributaries to rivers and larger streams would lose protection, meaning pollution flowing into these tributaries would not be prohibited under the Clean Water Act. But that pollution will still wind up in even continuously flowing rivers and streams from these tributaries.
- Sources of drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans: 117 million of us draw all or some of our water from public drinking water systems that depend at least partly on the streams that do not flow continuously.
- 20 million acres of wetlands: All or parts of iconic wetlands like the Big Cypress Swamp in Florida and the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana, as well prairie potholes in the northern Great Plains that provide the majority of waterfowl nesting habitat in North America, would lose protection from draining or filling.