Trump Finalizes Plan to Poison 60% of Nation’s Waterways


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How does the new rule stack up to the old one? Well, the Obama rule protected roughly 60% of the country’s waterways, including large bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, and Mississippi River, as well as smaller wetlands, headwaters, and streams. It limited the discharge of things like pesticides, fertilizers, industrial chemicals, and other stuff you’d probably not want to drink into those waters. Whereas Trump’s rule:

…removes protections for many other waters, including wetlands that are not adjacent to large bodies of water, some seasonal streams that flow for only a portion of the year, “ephemeral” streams that only flow after rainstorms, and groundwater. Legal experts say that Mr. Trump’s replacement rule would go further than simply repealing and replacing the 2015 Obama rule—it would also eliminate protections to smaller headwaters that have been implemented for decades under the 1972 Clean Water Act.

That could open millions of acres of pristine wetlands to pollution or destruction, and allow chemicals and other pollutants to be discharged into smaller headland waters that eventually drain into larger water bodies, experts in water management said. Wetlands play key roles in filtering surface water and protecting against floods, while also providing wildlife habitat.

“This is rolling back federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act further than it’s ever been before,” Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School, told the Times. “Waters that have been protected for almost 50 years will no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act.”

While fossil fuel groups unsurprisingly cheered the change, government scientists—even ones appointed by Trump— were less enthused. The EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board said that the new rule flagrantly ignores science by “failing to acknowledge watershed systems,” adding that it found “no scientific justification” for excluding certain bodies of water from protection, and that pollutants dumped in smaller and seasonal bodies of water can still have a massive, devastating impact on the health of larger water systems. Anyway, happy golfing!

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