Clean Water Rule

Issued in July 2015, the Clean Water Rule clarified the scope of coverage of the Clean Water Act, a law passed in 1972 to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of America’s waters. The much-needed rule restored the Clean Water Act’s protections to many important streams, wetlands, and drinking water sources all across the country.

After the rule was issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, more than 100 parties filed lawsuits, some of them arguing that the rule protected too many waters. NRDC intervened on the side of the EPA and Army Corps to defend the rule, a role that became even more important after the Trump administration assumed the defense of these lawsuits in 2017. The new administration’s hostility toward the Clean Water Rule was fierce and immediate. 

In July 2017, the EPA and Army Corps formally proposed rescinding the Clean Water Rule—and in February 2018, tried to suspend the rule while they processed their repeal. NRDC sued to challenge the suspension. In August 2018, in a parallel lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), a federal judge found that the Trump administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act and set aside the suspension, allowing the Clean Water Rule to take effect in 26 states. 

But in September 2019, the agencies finalized the repeal of the Clean Water Rule. NRDC and our coalition partners, represented by SELC, immediately sued them in federal district court. While our lawsuit remains pending, the Trump administration has finalized another rule that redefines “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. Their Dirty Water Rule will be devastating, revoking federal protections for countless critically important streams and wetlands. NRDC filed lengthy comments objecting to the rule when it was first proposed—and we plan to fight it.

Last Updated

January 23, 2020



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January 23, 2020