Update: Trump Delay Action Struck Down by Federal District Court

A federal district court judge in South Carolina has struck down the Trump Administration's two-year delay of the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which was issued to provide protections for two million miles of waterways and millions of acres of wetlands.  As of August 16, 2018, the Clean Water Rule's definition is in effect in 26 states, and the old definition is in effect in 24 states.  This odd situation is the combined effect of a Trump Administration action delaying the Clean Water Rule's applicability, and various federal court rulings involving the rule and the delay action.  For more information on the litigation history, see announcement of court decision by Clean Water Act and the court decision itself.

Proposed Two-Year Delay of Clean Water Rule

Public Comment Closed December 13, 2017

Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0644

Docket information @ https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0644-0001 


What’s at Risk, Talking Points and What You Can Do

The Trump Administration has now proposed to delay implementation of the Clean Water Rule by two years.  Based on Politico reports, the effective date of the Rule would be delayed until ~mid-2020.  (See note below.)

This is the latest move in a series of proposals aimed at removing Clean Water Act protections from two million miles of waterways and millions of acres of wetlands. Delay (and, ultimately, rollback) of this rule puts drinking water at risk for 117 million Americans. 

The Clean Water Rule (“Waters of the U.S.” or WOTUS rule) was issued in 2015 to more clearly define which “waters” are protected under the Clean Water Act.  The Rule’s definition of protected waters is based on hydrologic science. It recognizes the real-world connections that exist between large volume, “navigable” waters and smaller non-navigable streams and wetlands.   The Clean Water Rule protects tributary streams that can greatly impact downstream water.

New Clean Water Rule timing: PRUITT PROMISES FINAL WOTUS BY MID-2018
"Pruitt is due to make remarks to farmers and biofuels groups today in Nevada, Iowa, today fresh off his agency's biofuels decision on Thursday and a swing through Kentucky. During a speech to the Kentucky Farm Bureau Thursday, Pruitt promised a final replacement to the Waters of the U.S. regulation by mid-2018 that he said would focus on "navigability," according to video posted by WHAS. He also met with Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

On his relationship with Trump: "It is a blessing to serve him and my desire each and every day is to bless him as he makes decisions."

Politico Morning Energy (12/01/2017)

Related Congressional Action: 
Spending Bill Riders Threaten Clean Water Rule

"Both House and Senate Republicans have inserted language into spending bills aimed at blocking legal challenges to the Trump administration’s effort to repeal the so-called Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The 2015 rule granted two federal agencies, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, broad leeway in regulating activities that could affect streams and tributaries.

Republicans, including Pruitt as Oklahoma's attorney general, challenged the rule in federal court and made repeal a priority. Now, they appear intent on blocking that same path for environmentalists interested in suing the Trump administration as it repeals the rule."

Washington Post Energy 202 12/01/2017

About This Rule & Previous Rollback Actions

For information about the Clean Water Rule and previous actions to roll back and redefine the Rule, see Defending Our Waters.

Suggested Talking Points for EPA and Congress

Tips:  First, explain why you’re weighing in on this proposed withdrawal – why it matters to you.  If you have relevant expertise, say so. You don’t have to be an expert, but if you do have expertise, share your knowledge.  Be constructive and civil.  Don’t say a lot if less will do the job.

A responsible EPA would implement the Clean Water Rule as soon as it’s authorized to do so, in order to protect streams, wetlands, and drinking water supplies across the country.

This latest move to delay implementation of the Clean Water Rule continues the confusion and uncertainty for the regulated community that issuance of the Rule was intended to address.

EPA issued the Clean Water Rule after broad-based calls for clarity about which “waters” the Clean Water Act protects. Rolling back the rule is bad governance, bad for businesses who rely on regulatory certainty, and bad for our communities that deserve clean water.

A responsible EPA would implement the Clean Water Rule as soon as it’s authorized to do so, in order to protect streams, wetlands, and drinking water supplies across the country.

Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans are at risk. Low income communities and communities of color are already disproportionately impacted by contaminated water. Contaminated water can cause a variety of health problems, especially for children. Repealing the Clean Water Rule could put many of these communities at further risk.

Small and rural communities, who rely on private wells or whose water systems lack the resources to deal with polluted sources, may be hit the hardest by the proposed roll back.

We're losing wetlands across the country at a troubling rate. The Clean Water Rule can help us protect these vital water bodies.

For all of these reasons, EPA should implement the Clean Water Rule as soon as possible - not delay it for two years..The 2015 Clean Water Rule was developed to clarify what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act and is based on the best available science and followed exhaustive meetings with stakeholders and an extensive public comment period.

The 2015 Clean Water Rule was supported by a diverse group of public health officials, sportsmen and conservation organizations, and the scientific community. Sportsmen, conservationists, and recreationists know the critical importance of clean water and its essential role in maintaining fish and wildlife populations.

We can’t support and grow small businesses by putting the natural water infrastructure they rely on at risk of destruction. We won’t protect public health by ignoring the science that water quality throughout a watershed depends on what happens to upstream waterways.

What You Can Do

It would be great if well-reasoned, fact-based comments were enough to win the day, but in today’s deregulatory environment, raising the political stakes of regulatory rollbacks is crucial to stopping or slowing them down.  For rules that are particularly important to you, please consider taking one or more of the following steps, too.

  • Write to your members of Congress and other elected officials.  Let them know your concerns and ask them to weigh in with the agency proposing the rollback.
  • Write letters to the editor and even op-eds in your local papers.
  • Organize or participate in letter-writing campaigns.
  • Join or organize demonstrations.
  • Talk to your friends, colleagues and neighbors and encourage them to comment and otherwise join in this effort.  Voicing your concerns on social media can be a very effective way to spread the word.

Links For More Information

See our earlier talking points about the Clean Water Rule at Defending Our Waters

We also have a blog post on Why definitions in the Clean Water Rule matter 

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Save EPA has been an all-volunteer group of former EPA officials who became alarmed about the Trump agenda for EPA and joined together to fight it.

With newly-elected President-Elect Biden and VP-Elect Harris coming in January, the need to "save EPA" is much less urgent. This is not to imply all clear skies ahead - there is much re-building to do, there will be negative pressures on the new administration, and we will likely have policy differences in the future. However, we are hopeful that these differences will be discussed rationally, using science as a basis for moving forward, and keeping EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment in the forefront.

And so, we are going back to retirement!  We're keeping our website up at http://saveepaalums.info/ , as a resource for those who want to follow and influence the restoration work. Our report on the Trump record at EPA describes the actions that need to be reversed [saveepaalums.info/Trump+era+report], and our guide to participating in the rulemaking process [http://saveepaalums.info/Resistance+Guide] can help you be part of the solution.

Thank you for your support and commitment during the past 3.5 years.  While the Trump assaults were unending, they were also frequently unsuccessful, and that was due in large part to public outrage.  Keep it up!  Although EPA will be in much better hands with a Biden administration, there is always a need for an informed and engaged public.