Conservation Groups Sue Trump Administration Over Illegal Delay to the Clean Water Rule

WASHINGTON – The Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Wildlife Federation today filed a lawsuit to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from illegally delaying implementation of the Clean Water Rule. The complaint, filed in federal court in New York, takes aim at the Trump administration’s attempt to prevent the enforcement of needed protections for lakes, rivers and wetlands, including streams that feed into the drinking water supplies of 117 million Americans.

Faced with the possibility of enforcing these protections in the coming days, the agencies instead rushed through a regulation that delays protections until 2020. In the meantime, the Trump administration plans to develop a far weaker rule to replace the Clean Water Rule.  

Statement by Jon Devine, director of federal water policy and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“These safeguards should be working to protect our nation’s drinking water and recreation resources, but the Trump administration has instead pursued a rushed and illegitimate process to try and stop them.

“The administration’s attack on clean water violates the law and runs roughshod over public concern about their waterways. It’s dangerous and that’s why we’re going to court.”

Statement by Jan Goldman-Carter, director for wetlands and water resources for the National Wildlife Federation:

“The American people have made it crystal clear they want to see our rivers and streams protected. They want to be able to fish in the local stream, swim in a nearby lake and turn on the tap and get a glass of safe, clean water to drink. The Clean Water Rule provides that protection and the Trump administration is working to take it away. We have no choice but to defend America’s waterways in court.”

A copy of the legal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is available here. Or email or for a copy.

For earlier information on this issue from Jon Devine, see this blog post.


EPA and the Army Corps issued the Clean Water Rule in 2015 to clarify that Clean Water Act protections apply to a variety of critical water bodies. The rule provided clarity to developers and homeowners while ensuring protection for streams, wetlands and other waters. Without the rule, many lakes and streams Americans rely on for safe drinking water and recreation are at risk of pollution.

At the behest of industry, the Trump administration -- led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt -- has gone to great lengths to try and prevent these commonsense protections from being enforced. It first proposed to repeal the Clean Water Rule, but shifted to this delay scheme after getting a flood of criticism. The action challenged today is basically repeal by another name.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​

The National Wildlife Federation is a member-supported conservation organization, uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



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