EPA announced its Waters of the United States replacement or “Dirty Water Rule”. The administration’s talking points indicate that the proposal would restrict which wetlands and waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act, such as excluding ephemeral streams and wetlands that are not “physically and meaningfully” connected to other jurisdictional waterways.
Here is link to an Add-Up petition opposing the change. Please circulate this petition if you can.
The following is provided by Jennifer Collins with Earth Justice.
· Dirty Water Rule. On December 11, 2018, the Trump administration announced the “Dirty Water Rule” or its revised definition of “Waters of the US” that substantially limits the number of waterways receiving protection from the Clean Water Act. The rule is NOT yet posted in the federal register, so the 60 day comment period has not yet begun. A number of groups requested an extension of the comment period, although have not yet heard back. On December 28th, EPA and Army Corps announced that they would do one public hearing in Kansas City, KS on January 23rd and do an online webcast on January 10. Due to the partial government shutdown, the Kansas City hearing has been postponed and on its website, EPA states that if the government is still shut down on the 10th, the webcast will have to be postponed, as well.
This article offers some hope but many comment letters are needed from activists and organizations.
Rollback of clean water rules unveiled.
Environmental groups and many states are expected to challenge Trump’s proposal.
ACTING Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler said the proposal would not affect California, but experts disagreed, saying state agencies don’t have the resources to do what the EPA does. (Cliff Owen Associated Press By Evan Halper
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration unveiled its plan Tuesday for a major rollback of the Clean Water Act, a blueprint drawn up at the behest of farm groups, real estate developers and other business interests that would end federal protections on thousands of miles of streams and wetlands.
The proposal has big implications for California and other arid Western states, where many of the seasonal streams and wetlands that are a foundation of drinking water supplies and sensitive ecosystems would lose federal protection.
Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the Obama-era rule that put those waters under the protection of the Clean Water Act “further expanded Washington’s reach into privately owned lands.”
“They claimed it was in the interest of water quality, but it was really about power,” Wheeler said. “Power in the hands of the federal government over landowners.”
Studies conducted by the Obama-era EPA suggest that as many as two-thirds of California’s inland freshwater streams fall into categories that would be at risk of losing protection under the Trump administration plan. Wheeler dismissed those studies as scientifically flawed, but his agency said it could not offer an accurate estimate of how much federal protection would be diminished in the state.
“California already has water protections in place that are stricter than the federal government’s, so nothing is going to change for the California waters,” he said.
Former EPA regulators drew a starkly contrasting picture, saying state agencies do not have the resources or expertise to backfill all the work the EPA would stop doing under President Trump’s proposed rule.
“The ramifications could be huge,” said Jessica Kao, who this year left her position as the EPA’s lead Clean Water Act enforcement attorney in the Southwest.
“You will definitely see more development projects outside the purview of the Clean Water Act.”
The new rules would enable many polluting projects to skirt federal environmental reviews and allow companies building structures as diverse as oil pipelines and residential subdivisions to avoid warning the public of potential water-quality hazards they create, she said.
“It will be easier to pollute and fill these streams,” she said. “And years later, we will deal with the consequences.”
The proposal, which now moves into a 60-day public comment period, is certain to draw legal challenges from environmental groups and many states.
The fight marks the latest chapter in a decades-long struggle over the reach of the Clean Water Act. Agriculture businesses, developers, and oil and mining companies say the existing rule has enabled heavy-handed bureaucrats to impose hefty fines on them for disrupting ditches and filling wetlands never meant to be regulated by the federal government.
Farm groups also worry that strict clean water regulations will limit their ability to use pesticides and fertilizers on fields that could drain into creeks and swamps.
The Obama EPA investigated those concerns while drafting the rule and found them to be lacking merit. It reviewed hundreds of studies in concluding that enforcing the protections widely on wetlands and seasonal streams would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits to the economy. The Trump administration’s proposal disputes those benefits, concluding any economic boost to be gained from the Obama-era rule is eclipsed by its costs to landowners and business.
“I don’t know there is one single rule that has caused as much concern and frustration,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). “You needed this army of hydrologists and engineers and lawyers just to figure out whether your project could even begin.”
Many states, particularly those with Republican governments, had joined industry in fighting the Obama-era rules, calling them an unwelcome and unnecessary intrusion.
Wheeler quoted a finding from the Missouri Farm Bureau that 95% of the land in that state could contain water subject to the Obama-era rule, which Wheeler said “put local land-use decisions in the hands of distant, unelected bureaucrats.”
Other states, including California, have backed the Obama EPA’s rules. California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra repeated the state’s position Tuesday, saying in a message on Twitter that the state would “defend CA’s right to clean drinking water and pollution-free streams and lakes.”
The Supreme Court has struggled to define which waters should be protected under the Clean Water Act. A 2006 case resulted in multiple opinions.
The Obama administration crafted its rule around the definition of protected waters offered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who recently retired. But Trump, within a month of taking office, ordered his administration to embrace the far more narrow definition the late Justice Antonin Scalia provided in his opinion.Although the administration plan faces a tough legal fight, the Supreme Court’s shift in a more conservative direction since the Clean Water Act was last heard there could give Trump and his aides an edge.
“It may very well be upheld if the administration does a good job of substantiating its approach,” said an email from Ann Navaro, a former chief counsel of litigation at the Army Corps of Engineers.
But the court is often loath to overturn precedent, and many lower courts have already embraced the Kennedy opinion from a decade ago. Attorneys for environmental groups are hopeful that the scale of the administration’s planned rollback will ultimately sink it in litigation.
“They want to shrink the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to a level we have not seen in decades,” said Blan Holman, managing attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “They say they are doing something that is consistent with the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, but it is not.
Ambling through a forest on his rural Mark West area property, Ray Krauss bent over to pinch a fir tree sprout and pull it from the rain-damp ground. If the tiny green seedling grew much larger, Krauss would have to nip it with pruning shears, and were it to become a substantial tree he would fell it with a chainsaw.
But the 76-year-old retiree, who wears a bright red bicycle cap to keep his bald head warm, is considered a patron saint — not a plunderer — of the 63 acres of critical watershed land he has stewarded for nearly half a century.
“It’s been an utter privilege to live here all these years,” Krauss said. “It’s such a special location.”
Were the land and the wildlife on it able to speak, they might thank him for his dedication.
Sonoma Land Trust, which has protected more than 50,000 acres of land for future generations, embraced the early Christmas gift it got last week from Krauss and his wife, Barbara Shumsky. The couple donated a conservation easement, prohibiting development and guaranteeing the land will remain largely unchanged in perpetuity, foregoing the potential for substantial profit.
“We have a special affection for the Mark West watershed,” Ariel Patashnik, the Santa Rosa nonprofit’s land acquisition program manager, said while visiting the property on a foggy afternoon.
The 40-square-mile watershed, stretching from the Napa County line to the Russian River near Forestville, encompasses Mark West Creek and multiple tributaries, all emptying into the Laguna de Santa Rosa about five miles from its confluence with the river.
The Krauss-Shumsky land, which slopes from a level bench in the Mayacmas Mountains down to a Mark West Creek tributary called Monan’s Rill, is home to mountain lions, black bears and bobcats. It’s part of a largely undeveloped corridor enabling wildlife to migrate from Lake County to Marin County.
A patchwork of habitats, the property includes native oak woodlands, fir and mixed hardwood forest, chaparral and grassland. Located just a half-hour from downtown Santa Rosa, about a mile up a private road off St. Helena Road, the land is a refuge apart from the urban world.
Its underlying attribute, Krauss said, is the basalt spewed by a volcano over the mountains some 8 million years ago. With open fractures that absorb rain water like a sponge during winter and allow it to seep out during summer, the rock endows Mark West Creek with a year-round flow that makes it an official “priority stream” for the recovery of endangered coho salmon.
To the Sonoma Land Trust, one of the property’s prime attractions is the result of Ray Krauss’ personal assault, with fire and hand tools, on the invasive fir trees that he saw attempting to overrun his woodlands.
“The firs were choking off the light, using all the water, making it impossible for anything else to grow,” he said, standing in a sloped forest of various oaks, madrone, bay, maple and manzanita trees.
Eight years ago, he cleared the area of firs and low-hanging tree limbs — a practice known as “vegetation management” and now regarded as an antidote to raging California wildfires.
Walking through the thinned woods is as easy as it was for the Native Americans who honed fire-control techniques that white settlers largely abandoned, Krauss said.
He paused, pointing with his boot toward native bunch grasses and wildflowers that have appeared since the fir canopy was removed. The fir, however, won’t quit, he said, pointing out 1- to 2-inch sprouts he intends to eliminate with pruning shears in the spring.
Nearby, three large madrone trunks have risen from the stump of a much larger, 3-foot-wide tree. It had been cut 50 years ago when the Mayacamas woodlands were still harvested for firewood to heat the area’s hop kilns, as had been done since the 1880s, he said.
Krauss and Shumsky purchased the property in two pieces, in 1972 and 1986, and named it Sunsrays, owing to the land’s bench, where their home sits at 1,500 feet above sea level and, most of the time, above the fog. It’s in a so-called “banana belt,” enabling the orchard of more than 200 trees to grow apples, pears, figs, cherries, plums, peaches, pomegranates and citrus, which Shumsky sold for years at farmers markets.
Not far from the house, Krauss built a simple wooden deck several decades ago, facing west so they could comfortably enjoy sunsets and a view all the way to Jonive Ridge near the ocean.
On Oct. 9, 2017, they watched the horrifying spectacle of the Tubbs fire burning from right to left toward Fountaingrove. Krauss said he could hear propane tanks exploding and feel the blast concussion.
They were in an evacuation zone, but the flames came no closer than a mile away, he said.
Krauss was one of Sonoma County’s first planners employed when environmental impact reports became required for new development and the county’s first general plan was adopted, with an accompanying political upheaval.
He was environmental manager of a Lake County gold mine for 20 years and spent his final 10 years in conservation working for local nonprofits.
His personal vegetation management project began in earnest in retirement and has now cleared about 10 acres of woodlands.
The couple had long intended to donate a conservation easement for their property, and Krauss said it came at the sacrifice of about two-thirds of the land’s value. Barring the voluntarily imposed restriction, their land could be subdivided, creating a pair of 20-acre parcels they could sell and retain the balance for their modest home.
The value of undeveloped rural land hinges on its attributes, such as a building site and vineyard potential, said Jeff Bounsall, a Santa Rosa Realtor and land consultant.
“You are definitely giving up value” with an easement, he said.
Krauss said his land has those attributes, and noted that a nearby 40-acre parcel with a house sold last fall for $1.2 million.
The donation, he said, is “a gift from California that I can give back to future generations.”
There won’t be any public access to the property, however.
The donation is the land trust’s 45th conservation easement, bringing the total to 7,160 acres.
“We need more landowners like Ray who think about the value of the land that way,” Patashnik said.
There are another 40 acres of forest in need of clearing, and Ray Krauss would welcome assistance.
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter Greenwire: December 6, 2018
The Trump administration will propose to severely restrict the number of wetlands and waterways covered by the Clean Water Act in an announcement expected next week.
The proposed new definition of “waters of the U.S.,” or WOTUS, will erase federal protections from streams that flow only following rainfall, as well as wetlands not physically connected to larger waterways, according to a copy of EPA talking points obtained by E&E News.
EPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The talking points offer a high-level outline of EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to restrict which wetlands and waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. EPA’s formal announcement is expected next Tuesday morning, a source told E&E News.
The exact number of wetlands and waterways losing federal protections won’t be known until the full, detailed proposal is released. But the talking points offer some clues.
“Ephemeral streams and related features” that are wet only after rain events would be completely excluded. The proposal also “covers only adjacent wetlands that are physically and meaningfully connected to other jurisdictional waters.”
It’s not clear how the administration would define “physically and meaningfully connected.” But the agencies have set out to write a regulation based on a 2006 opinion written by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who said the Clean Water Act should extend only to waters and wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to nearby rivers and streams where it is “difficult to determine where the ‘water’ ends and the ‘wetland’ begins.”
Reporters Robin Bravender, Hannah Northey and Geof Koss contributed.
By Evan Halper Dec 10, 2018 | 3:55 PM | Washington
The Trump administration is poised to roll back Clean Water Act protections on millions of acres of waterways and wetlands, including up to two-thirds of California’s inland streams, following through on a promise to agriculture interests and real estate developers to rewrite an Obama-era rule limiting pollution.
The administration’s plan for a vastly scaled-down Clean Water Rule is expected to be released as soon as Tuesday. Officials said nearly two years ago that they had begun the process of reversing the rule President Obama put in place, and internal talking points laying out its case were disclosed late last week by the environmental media outlet E&E News.
The talking points signal that the Environmental Protection Agency intends to strip federal protections from many of the nation’s wetlands and streams that do not flow year-round. The administration has not challenged the accuracy of the talking points.
“The previous administration’s 2015 rule wasn’t about water quality,” the draft talking points said. “It was about power — power in the hands of the federal government over farmers, developers and landowners.”
At stake are billions of dollars in potential development rights, the quality of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and rules that affect farming in much of the country, as well as wildlife habitat for most of the nation’s migratory birds and many other species.
Under the administration’s plan, the Clean Water Act’s protections would no longer apply to most seasonal ponds, wetlands and streams, including those that form major parts of drinking-water systems and fisheries throughout the nation, particularly in the arid West. As many as 1 in 3 Americans drink water derived in part from seasonal streams that may no longer get protections, according to scientific studies the Obama-era EPA relied on in writing the original rule.
In California, where many significant stretches of fresh water dry up in the summer, as much as 66% of the state’s freshwater streams could lose federal protection. The waters would continue to have protection under state law, but few states are in position to replace the regulatory systems currently run by federal officials.
“These protections have been around for 50 years,” said Jessica Kao, who until this year was the EPA’s lead Clean Water Act enforcement attorney in the Southwest. “It’s not that easy for a state to just step in and take it over. You need to build up expertise and devote significant resources to it.”
Trump administration officials reject the federal data that show as many as 66% of the freshwater streams in California — and 81% in the arid Southwest overall — could lose Clean Water Act protection, saying the Obama EPA lacked enough specifics to back up that estimate.
“The premise … is wrong,” EPA spokesman John Konkus said an email. “The previous administration did not have enough information to accurately or responsibly quantify changes in federally regulated waters. That means there are no data to support the 80% estimate.”
The Trump administration’s plan would preserve protections for some seasonal streams that regulators would classify as “perennial and intermittent tributaries to traditional navigable waters.” Protections would also be preserved for wetlands adjacent to navigable waters.
Administration officials have declined to specify how many streams fall into the “intermittent” category.
The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers share authority over development that affects lakes and rivers used in interstate commerce. But because pollution flows downstream, the government also has taken jurisdiction over nonnavigable waters that connect to those.
The issue that has generated battles through four consecutive administrations involves how far upstream the government’s reach can extend.
Environmentalists have pushed to extend protections to seasonal waters, seeing them as key resources for healthy ecosystems. Agricultural and real estate interests have pushed back hard, complaining of intrusions by heavy-handed bureaucrats.
Farmers have argued the Obama-era rules could force them to get costly and cumbersome permits just to dig a drainage ditch. Developers warned the new restrictions could needlessly complicate home building.
They are joined by mining and oil companies seeking to limit the reach of environmental rules that hold the firms accountable for industrial activities disrupting streams and wetlands.
In a federal court brief filed in June in North Dakota, a large coalition of industry groups argued they risked “crushing fines and possible criminal penalties” for failing to get permits to discharge pollutants into waters that were never meant to protected by the Clean Water Act.
Under Obama, the EPA found many of those fears exaggerated. The agency concluded that the protections it put in place would actually create a net economic benefit for the nation of as much as $550 million a year.
“You can’t protect the larger bodies of water unless you protect the smaller ones that flow into them,” said Ken Kopocis, who was the chief EPA water official under Obama. “You end up with a situation where you can pollute or destroy smaller streams and bodies, and it will eventually impact the larger ones.”
All of the historic federal water cleanups have involved repairing damage that was done to intermittent streams flowing into a major navigable river or lake, he said.
Because of conflicting court rulings, the Obama rules have been in effect in only part of the country. Federal courts covering 22 states, including the West Coast, New England, the mid-Atlantic and parts of the upper Midwest, have allowed the rules to go into effect. In those states, mostly controlled by Democrats, state governments have generally supported the Obama-era rules.
Courts covering most of the South, the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain states have put the rules on hold in response to suits brought by developers, farm groups and conservative states that have sought to overturn the Obama rules.
In those states, regulators have provided Clean Water Action protections to seasonal streams and wetlands on a case-by-case basis.
Those legal battles came nearly a decade after the Supreme Court waded into the issue, with the justices split on what waters warrant Clean Water Act protections. A deciding opinion by former Justice Anthony M. Kennedy created a path for the Obama administration to apply its rules to seasonal streams and wetlands.
Environmental groups warn the new Trump rules would restrict the EPA from any enforcement, leaving the job entirely to the states and giving some of the most crucial bodies of water the least amount of protection they have had in decades.
“It is hard to overstate the impact of this,” said Blan Holman, managing attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, an advocacy group.
“This would be taking a sledgehammer to the Clean Water Act and rolling things back to a place we haven’t been since it was passed. It is a huge threat to water quality across the country, and especially in the West.”
WASHINGTON (December 11, 2018) – The Trump administration took action today to weaken key parts of the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers agencies jointly proposed exempting polluters from important programs that prevent and clean up water pollution, by removing protections from certain streams,wetlands, and other water bodies.
This Dirty Water Rule would wipe out safeguards for water bodies that provide drinking water to tens of millions of people, including vulnerable populations such as children, and for wetlands that filter pollution and protect our communities from flooding.
For more than 45 years, the Clean Water Act has helped work toward a time when all water bodies are safe for swimming and fishing, and when drinking water supplies are protected from pollution. Now the Trump administration is moving backwards.
Polluted water harms local economies and businesses. Breweries, outdoor recreation, tourism and local businesses rely on clean water to create jobs and power local economies. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates, for example, that algae outbreaks and “dead zones,” such as the one that forms annually in the Gulf of Mexico, cost fishermen nearly $82 million annually in lost seafood catches. These problems are fueled by pollution into streams and rivers.
Members of the Clean Water for All Coalition offered these responses:
“Nurses understand the negative health effects of exposure to dirty water—whether it’s from neurotoxic chemicals, like lead in drinking water, or chemicals linked to cancers and hormone disruption found in coal ash ponds, or fracking waste water that pollutes groundwater sources,” said Katie Huffling, executive director of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and a nurse. “This attack on the Clean Water Rule is an urgent public health threat, and we strongly oppose any efforts to repeal this vital,health-protective rule.”
“This is an early Christmas gift to polluters and a lump of coal for everyone else,” said Bob Irvin, President and CEO of American Rivers. “Too many people in our country, urban and rural, are living with unsafe drinking water. Low-income communities,indigenous peoples and communities of color are hit hardest by pollution and river degradation. Instead of rolling back the rules and creating new loopholes for polluters, we need to strengthen safeguards for the rivers, streams, and wetlands that supply our drinking water.”
“Clean water is as essential to a healthy economy as it is to a healthy environment. Business depends on clean water. We don’t get clean water by gutting protections for streams and wetlands. We can’t support and grow businesses by putting the natural water infrastructure they rely on at risk of destruction. The Trump Administration’s proposal to replace the Clean Water Rule puts polluters ahead of the rest of the business community, said “Hammad Atassi, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council, which has a member network representing more than 250,000 businesses across the country.
“Every American wants to be sure that their family is safe, and that means clean, safe drinking water.” said Kim Glas, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance. However, the Trump administration today proposed to significantly weaken the Clean Water Rule, which safeguards the drinking water supplies for 117 million Americans. Enough is enough. The EPA should scrap their changes to this rule and instead enforce the existing rule that protects the water quality for millions of Americans.”
“Everyone deserves the right to safe and healthy water, especially those communities most vulnerable to harmful exposures such as children,” said Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, Executive Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network. “Our children of today and tomorrow simply deserve better and need better actions for their protections.”
“The Dirty Water Rule continues the Trump administration’s unbroken streak of doing whatever it can to put corporate special interests and their priorities first,” said Bob Wendelgass, president and CEO of Clean Water Action. “This proposal will put our health and drinking water in jeopardy by radically reinterpreting the Clean Water Act while ignoring science. No one benefits from this scheme except for developers, the fossil fuel industry, and other companies who will have a free hand to pave over or plow under streams and wetlands.”
“Today’s action is nothing short of a full attack on clean water for millions of Americans. It’s another shameless scheme to line the pockets of the multi-billion dollar polluters who helped put President Trump in office,” said Abigail Dillen, President of Earthjustice.
“This Dirty Water Rule turns the mission of the EPA on its head: EPA is proposing to strip federal protection from drinking water sources for millions of Americans,” said John Rumpler, director of the clean water program for Environment America. “It defies common sense, sound science, and the will of the American people.”
“This outrageous move comes at a time when our communities are already facing crumbling infrastructure,increasing impacts from climate change, and corporate polluters that face extremely limited accountability for poisoning our people and planet,”said Rev Lennox Yearwood Jr., President& CEO of Hip Hop Caucus. “The consequences of this move are that millions of people will have less access to clean drinking water and those responsible will continue to get away with it. Unfortunately, low-income and communities of color will continue to bear the largest burden.”
“This despicable attack on our clean water from Trump and his corrupt administration comes as no surprise as they have clearly and consistently put the profits of polluters ahead of what’s best for our families,” said Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters. “However, with too many communities across the country struggling with health crises related to their water, whether it be lead poisoning in Flint or toxic red tide in Florida or coal ash and hog waste-contaminated rivers in North Carolina, Trump’s Dirty Water Rule is still an appalling rollback of critical safeguards for our waterways. It is crystal clear that we must do more, not less, to ensure every family in this country has access to clean and safe drinking water, and we pledge to fight this dangerous proposal to turn our drinking water sources back into the waste dumps of big polluters.”
“Healthy streams and wetlands are essential for people and wildlife,” said Collin O’ Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Today’s action allows a few to cut corners while increasing the risks to wildlife and to the drinking water for millions of Americans.”
“This gives polluters a free pass to dump into the water bodies that supply our drinking water and the waters we use for fishing and swimming,” said Jon Devine,director of the federal water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We will fight this illegal effort to do away with important protections that have helped us clean up our nation’s lakes, streams, and wetlands.”
“People should be able to drink water and take showers in their homes without fear of being poisoned,” said Michael McAfee,president and CEO of Policylink. “Yet, nearly 77 million Americans live in communities that lack access to clean, safe water or sustainable water infrastructure. Low-income people and communities of color are already disproportionately impacted by contaminated water, which can cause a variety of health problems, particularly for children, and this proposal will exacerbate this inequity. Water is life. Caring for it is our shared responsibility. We must urge Americans to take a stand against this proposed Dirty Water Rule to ensure a future where everyone has access to clean water.”
“This latest attack on our water is a new low for Trump and Wheeler as they again unabashedly side with corporate polluters instead of our families,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Not only will this rollback endanger the drinking water sources for millions of people, but it also jeopardizes wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and economies that rely on safe, clean water. The Trump administration must stop rigging the system for special interests and start listening to the American public by acting to protect our water.”
“Big polluters could not have crafted a bigger free pass to dump if they wrote it themselves,” said Blan Holman, managing attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Charleston office. “This administration’s efforts to dismantle the Clean Water Act are a full-frontal assault on one of our country’s most important and longstanding environmental safeguards that has prevented unchecked and unlimited pollution from contaminating our waterways and drinking water sources for nearly 50 years. Protecting the South’s waters against pollution is our top priority. In the face of this serious threat, SELC and our partners will fight this dangerous proposal in court.”
The Trump administration’s upcoming proposal will dramatically reduce the scope of streams and wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act.
This radical reinterpretation of the Clean Water Act could remove federal pollution safeguards for vital water bodies like ephemeral streams and wetlands. The new Dirty Water Rule is also likely to apply the protections of the Clean Water Act to only wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to larger waters. These streams provide drinking water to tens of millions of people while these wetlands filter pollution and protect our communities from flooding.
The Trump Administration’s Dirty Water Rule makes no scientific, legal, or fiscal sense. Streams and wetlands work as natural filters and sponges—keeping our drinking water supplies safe while preventing floods.
If these streams and wetlands lost Clean Water Act protections, the consequences could be dire. For example:
● Oil spills—such as pipeline breaks—into these streams or wetlands may no longer be considered violations of the Clean Water Act.
● Industrial facilities or factory farms could discharge chemical waste or toxic pesticides into unprotected streams without fear of federal consequences.
● Developers may no longer need to obtain a permit before paving over or building on wetlands—leading to a loss of important wildlife habitats and increase in flooding downstream.
● Water treatment plants might be able discharge partially treated sewage into streams without adhering to water quality standards;
● States may no longer be required to clean up polluted streams or wetlands;
● Oil storage facilities near these waters may no longer have to develop oil spill prevention and response plans.
● When agencies fail to enforce the law against polluters of these waterways, the public could no longer hold polluters accountable through citizens’ suits under the Act.
For more than 46 years, the Clean Water Act has helped us ensure more waters are safe for swimming, fishing, and drinking, but there’s much more to be done to ensure everyone has access to clean, safe water. Instead,he Trump administration wants to turn back the clock to a time when fewer protections existed to safeguard people and wildlife from harmful pollution in our waters.
A Threat to Public Health
This rule will jeopardize clean drinking water sources across the United States. This will disproportionately affect low-income communities, rural communities, and communities of color where families already struggle for access to clean water.
Putting Polluters Before People
Dismantling Clean Water Act protections for so many streams and wetland will benefit special interests, not the public. The Dirty Water Rule gives polluters the freedom to contaminate our streams and and destroy our wetlands without regard for how this will impact people’s drinking water, increase flood risks or harm wildlife habitats.
Risking America’s Outdoor Recreation Economy
A recent poll of hunters and anglers found that 92 percent of respondents want to strengthen federal clean water protections rather than weaken them.
America’s outdoor recreation economy – activities like hiking, boating, fishing, and camping along lakes, rivers, and streams – depends on clean water. The recreational economy generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually, $65 billion in tax revenue, and supports nearly 8 million jobs – all of which could be at risk under the Dirty Water Rule.
How Did We Get Here? In response to a series of conflicting and confusing court decisions that potentially left more than half our nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands at risk, the Obama administration set out to clear up the confusion. In 2015, the Clean Water Rule clarified that those streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. Those streams help provide drinking water to 117 million Americans. The Clean Water Rule was supported by more than 1,000 scientific studies and over 800,000 public comments.
In February 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to repeal and replace the Clean Water Rule. EPA has already proposed the repeal.
What is coming next is the replacement. In fashioning this new rule, the Executive Order instructed EPA to follow Justice Scalia’s extremely narrow interpretation of the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. As such, the expected result is almost certain to be a Dirty Water Rule.
We urge you to editorialize against the Dirty Water Rule. The public cannot afford this administration’s ongoing assault on our clean water. [INSERT EXPERT} from [XXX] is available to speak to the human impact and environmental damages that would result if this Dirty Water Rule is not stopped.
Trump’s Dirty Water Rule is the last thing we need. If it is finalized it will jeopardize the sources of drinking water our families rely on and create uncertainty for the communities and businesses need access to clean water and the protections that wetlands provide, like filtering pollution and absorbing floodwaters.
Americans want the federal government to do more to protect clean water, but the Trump administration is doing the opposite. Let’s make sure EPA hears from as many people as possible. Send a message today to let EPA know you oppose this dangerous scheme.
Message to EPA
RE: Docket ID: xxx-xxxx-xxxx
Acting Administrator Wheeler,
EPA’s proposed replacement to the 2015 Clean Water Rules should be withdrawn. It wipes out basic Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and streams across the country. This will put our health and drinking water at risk. Our communities can’t afford your Dirty Water Rule.
Your proposed replacement ignores the sound science that tells us streams and wetlands are connected to the larger water bodies that provide our drinking water. Allowing small streams and wetlands to be destroyed will put drinking water at risk by allowing pollution to flow more freely downstream.
This proposed rule also sidesteps public opinion. Broad majorities or the public believe that we should do more, not less, to protect clean water. The only people who will benefit from this scheme will be the corporate polluters who have fought to reduce the scope of the Clean Water Act for more tjhan 40 years.
Please take this comment into account and withdraw this Dirty Water Rule.
Sample action emails Newsclips for sharing on social media
● EPA to scale back WOTUS definition — document https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060108967
● EPA’S NEW WATER RULE WILL GUT THE CLEAN WATER ACT https://theintercept.com/2018/12/07/epas-new-water-rule-will-gut-the-clean-water-act/
● TRUMP’S ATTACK ON THE CLEAN WATER ACT WILL FUEL DESTRUCTIVE PIPELINE BOOM https://theintercept.com/2018/12/09/clean-water-act-regulations/
● EPA to roll back protections in rewrite of Obama-era water rule https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/420380-epa-to-roll-back-protections-in-rewrite-of-obama-era-water-rule
● Trump EPA Proposes Major Rollback Of Federal Water Protections https://www.npr.org/2018/12/11/675477583/trump-epa-proposes-big-changes-to-federal-water-protections?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social
● EPA falsely claims ‘no data’ on waters in WOTUS rule https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060109323
● Trump Administration Proposes Sweeping Rollback of Clean Water Act https://www.audubon.org/news/trump-administration-proposes-sweeping-rollback-clean-water-act
● How does Trump compare to Obama on WOTUS? https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060109451
● Op-ed: Urges public comment on rule change https://lancasteronline.com/opinion/urges-public-comment-on-rule-change/article_f4fad136-fe3d-11e8-8314-a3396532ba35.html
Declare Climate Change a Major Disaster before it’s Too Late
This is a petition to Governor Brown to act A.S.A.P. Governor
Brown, please accept leadership of this massive transformation of
California to a CLIMATE CHANGE-READY STATE. This life-affirming effort
will give us the greatest chance of thriving through change instead of
merely surviving change.
We are living in extraordinary times, that require extraordinary actions and your extraordinary leadership.
(Excerpt from New York Times Magazine) Brooke Jarvis, November 27, 2018
In 2013, Krefeld entomologists confirmed that the total number of insects caught in one nature reserve was nearly 80 percent lower than the same spot in 1989. They had sampled other sites, analyzed old data sets and found similar declines: Where 30 years earlier, they often needed a liter bottle for a week of trapping, now a half-liter bottle usually sufficed. But it would have taken even highly trained entomologists years of painstaking work to identify all the insects in the bottles. So the society used a standardized method for weighing insects in alcohol, which told a powerful story simply by showing how much the overall mass of insects dropped over time. “A decline of this mixture,” Sorg said, “is a very different thing than the decline of only a few species.”
The society collaborated with de Kroon and other scientists at Radboud University in the Netherlands, who did a trend analysis of the data that Krefeld provided, controlling for things like the effects of nearby plants, weather and forest cover on fluctuations in insect populations. The final study looked at 63 nature preserves, representing almost 17,000 sampling days, and found consistent declines in every kind of habitat they sampled. This suggested, the authors wrote, “that it is not only the vulnerable species but the flying-insect community as a whole that has been decimated over the last few decades.”
For some scientists, the study created a moment of reckoning. “Scientists thought this data was too boring,” Dunn says. “But these people found it beautiful, and they loved it. They were the ones paying attention to Earth for all the rest of us.”
The current worldwide loss of biodiversity is popularly known as the sixth extinction: the sixth time in world history that a large number of species have disappeared in unusually rapid succession, caused this time not by asteroids or ice ages but by humans. When we think about losing biodiversity, we tend to think of the last northern white rhinos protected by armed guards, of polar bears on dwindling ice floes. Extinction is a visceral tragedy, universally understood: There is no coming back from it. The guilt of letting a unique species vanish is eternal.
But extinction is not the only tragedy through which we’re living. What about the species that still exist, but as a shadow of what they once were? In “The Once and Future World,” the journalist J.B. MacKinnon cites records from recent centuries that hint at what has only just been lost: “In the North Atlantic, a school of cod stalls a tall ship in midocean; off Sydney, Australia, a ship’s captain sails from noon until sunset through pods of sperm whales as far as the eye can see. … Pacific pioneers complain to the authorities that splashing salmon threaten to swamp their canoes.” There were reports of lions in the south of France, walruses at the mouth of the Thames, flocks of birds that took three days to fly overhead, as many as 100 blue whales in the Southern Ocean for every one that’s there now. “These are not sights from some ancient age of fire and ice,” MacKinnon writes. “We are talking about things seen by human eyes, recalled in human memory.”
What we’re losing is not just the diversity part of biodiversity, but the bio part: life in sheer quantity. While I was writing this article, scientists learned that the world’s largest king penguin colony shrank by 88 percent in 35 years, that more than 97 percent of the bluefin tuna that once lived in the ocean are gone. The number of Sophie the Giraffe toys sold in France in a single year is nine times the number of all the giraffes that still live in Africa.
Finding reassurance in the survival of a few symbolic standard-bearers ignores the value of abundance, of a natural world that thrives on richness and complexity and interaction. Tigers still exist, for example, but that doesn’t change the fact that 93 percent of the land where they used to live is now tigerless. This matters for more than romantic reasons: Large animals, especially top predators like tigers, connect ecosystems to one another and move energy and resources among them simply by walking and eating and defecating and dying. (In the deep ocean, sunken whale carcasses form the basis of entire ecosystems in nutrient-poor places.) One result of their loss is what’s known as trophic cascade, the unraveling of an ecosystem’s fabric as prey populations boom and crash and the various levels of the food web no longer keep each other in check. These places are emptier, impoverished in a thousand subtle ways.
Scientists have begun to speak of functional extinction (as opposed to the more familiar kind, numerical extinction). Functionally extinct animals and plants are still present but no longer prevalent enough to affect how an ecosystem works. Some phrase this as the extinction not of a species but of all its former interactions with its environment — an extinction of seed dispersal and predation and pollination and all the other ecological functions an animal once had, which can be devastating even if some individuals still persist. The more interactions are lost, the more disordered the ecosystem becomes. A 2013 paper in Nature, which modeled both natural and computer-generated food webs, suggested that a loss of even 30 percent of a species’ abundance can be so destabilizing that other species start going fully, numerically extinct — in fact, 80 percent of the time it was a secondarily affected creature that was the first to disappear. A famous real-world example of this type of cascade concerns sea otters. When they were nearly wiped out in the northern Pacific, their prey, sea urchins, ballooned in number and decimated kelp forests, turning a rich environment into a barren one and also possibly contributing to numerical extinctions, notably of the Steller’s sea cow.
Conservationists tend to focus on rare and endangered species, but it is common ones, because of their abundance, that power the living systems of our planet. Most species are not common, but within many animal groups most individuals — some 80 percent of them — belong to common species. Like the slow approach of twilight, their declines can be hard to see. White-rumped vultures were nearly gone from India before there was widespread awareness of their disappearance. Describing this phenomenon in the journal BioScience, Kevin Gaston, a professor of biodiversity and conservation at the University of Exeter, wrote: “Humans seem innately better able to detect the complete loss of an environmental feature than its progressive change.”
In addition to extinction (the complete loss of a species) and extirpation (a localized extinction), scientists now speak of defaunation: the loss of individuals, the loss of abundance, the loss of a place’s absolute animalness. In a 2014 article in Science, researchers argued that the word should become as familiar, and influential, as the concept of deforestation. In 2017 another paper reported that major population and range losses extended even to species considered to be at low risk for extinction. They predicted “negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization” and the authors offered another term for the widespread loss of the world’s wild fauna: “biological annihilation.”
It is estimated that, since 1970, Earth’s various populations of wild land animals have lost, on average, 60 percent of their members. Zeroing in on the category we most relate to, mammals, scientists believe that for every six wild creatures that once ate and burrowed and raised young, only one remains. What we have instead is ourselves. A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if you look at the world’s mammals by weight, 96 percent of that biomass is humans and livestock; just 4 percent is wild animals.
We’ve begun to talk about living in the Anthropocene, a world shaped by humans. But E.O. Wilson, the naturalist and prophet of environmental degradation, has suggested another name: the Eremocine, the age of loneliness.