President Trump issued an executive order for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to rescind and replace the Clean Water Rule
. The Clean Water Rule, which more clearly defines the types of waters that are – and are not – protected by the Clean Water Act is grounded in an extensive body of science and common sense and was widely supported during the lengthy public comment process.
The president’s executive order triggered a two-step process. First, EPA and the Corps will repeal the Clean Water Rule. EPA has announced this action but the proposed rule had not yet been published in the Federal Register, which will trigger the 30-day public comment period. After considering public comments, the agencies can complete the repeal process.
Once the Clean Water Rule is revoked, we expect EPA and the Corps will begin developing a new rule to define ”waters of the United States,” determining which types of streams, wetlands, and other waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. The executive order directs the agencies to consider defining protections based on a dissenting opinion offered by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the Rapanos v. United States case of 2006. This minority opinion states that only streams that flow “continuously” and wetlands that have a ”continuous surface connection” to larger water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act. This definition of jurisdiction is not based on science and will not allow the Clean Water Act to achieve its fundamental purpose: protecting America’s waterways. It would remove protections for the majority of American streams because they do not flow all year and put millions of acres of wetlands at risk, undermining decades of progress in restoring our nation’s waters.
The public will have opportunities to comment on both parts of this process, and it is vital that League members, chapters, and divisions participate. Supporting common-sense, science-based protections for streams and wetlands needs to be a priority for all of us. The League will keep members informed with updates throughout the summer and make action alerts available for simple actions when they become necessary.