Groups Sue to Keep Clean Water Protections Intact

By repealing the Clean Water Rule, the Trump administration is putting the drinking water sources for millions of Americans at risk.

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr

Environmental groups today launched a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s repeal of the Clean Water Rule, a rollback that threatens the drinking water sources for some 200 million people by making it easier for oil drillers, industrial sites, developers, and other polluters to contaminate waterways.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed the lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups, including NRDC, arguing that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not only failed to consider the harm the repeal would cause but also failed to give the public an adequate chance to weigh in before eliminating protections that were based on years of extensive scientific research.

“Ending science-based protections for the streams our kids play in and fish from, along with wetlands that filter pollution and protect communities from flooding, is reckless and radical,” says Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at NRDC. “Sadly we’ve come to expect these kinds of attacks on clean water over the last few years.”

Issued in 2015, the Clean Water Rule is a long-needed clarification of the Clean Water Act that ensures bedrock protections apply to smaller bodies of water, like streams and wetlands. The rule is particularly useful in less clear cases—say, for streams that only flow when it rains but are still vital to the health of larger bodies of water, or for wetlands that are not connected to larger bodies of water but filter pollution and curb flooding.

“The administration is pretending that pollution dumped upstream doesn’t flow downstream,” says Blan Holman, an attorney at SELC, “but its plan puts the water used by hundreds of millions of Americans for drinking, bathing, fishing, and business at risk. Clean water is a way of life we take for granted in America, but now large polluters are trying to dismantle bipartisan water protections in place for almost 50 years.”

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