Clean Water Rule Repeal


The 2015 Clean Water Rule outlined which bodies of water would be automatically protected by the Clean Water Act. Large bodies like lakes and rivers were listed, but the rule also included streams, ponds and other, smaller features that have important effects on these bigger, “navigable” waterways.

Thanks to this rule, the Clean Water Act’s oil spill prevention program, its industrial discharge control program, its polluted water cleanup program, and many more safeguards, would apply to these smaller bodies of water. Protecting these features was critical to ensuring the health of downstream waters, and the well-being of people, habitats, species and industries that depend on them.

The rule received criticism from industries long opposed to the effective enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The rule is now tied up in court, as businesses and agricultural groups argue that it is an example of federal overreach and a threat to industry.

President Trump and his EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, have vowed to eliminate the Clean Water Rule. The President recently signed an Executive Order directing the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the 2015 rule. In doing so, President Trump began the process to repeal and replace the current rule.

The EPA plans to repeal and replace the Clean Water Rule with two separate rulemaking processes. The tactics are to repeal the Clean Water Rule, then create a new rule that would roll back clean water safeguards for wetlands and streams. Administrator Pruitt recently said he hopes to finish both rules by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

Ultimately, the Administration’s clean water rollback plan means that fewer streams, wetlands, and other waters would be protected by the Clean Water Act’s oil spill prevention program, its requirement to develop cleanup blueprints for polluted waters, its pollution control standards for industrial dischargers, its protections against burying streams and wetlands, and numerous other safeguards. It means more pollution to the lakes and streams we rely on for drinking water supply or for fishing and swimming, and a green light for the rampant destruction of wetlands that prevent dangerous flooding.


Talking Points

Rolling back the Clean Water Rule puts our drinking water at risk

  • The Trump Administration’s rushed repeal is the first step in an assault that will put the drinking water for 117 million Americans at risk. The Administration hopes it flies under the radar and that his process to jeopardize drinking water sources people rely on is finished before anyone even knows what’s happening.
  • Repealing the Clean Water Rule puts polluter profits before public health. We don’t get clean water by gutting protections for streams and wetlands.
  • 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.
  • Repealing the Clean Water Rule is part of a huge assault on basic protections for clean water, including the Clean Water Act. It is a massive waste of time and taxpayer money that will put the drinking water of 1 in 3 of us at risk while EPA proposes a much weaker rule.
  • Nearly 45 years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, we have made tremendous progress, but many of our rivers, lakes, and bays are still not safe for swimming or fishing. Rolling back the Clean Water Rule will set that progress back.
  • 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. (source)
  • The health crisis around lead contamination in Flint justifiably grabbed headlines. However, Flint is not alone; many communities nationwide are facing similar challenges. Instead of repealing the common sense Clean Water Rule, the administration should be focusing on what actions they can take to ensure all communities have access to safe, clean drinking water.

Rolling back water protections is bad for our health

  • By slashing clean water safeguards, the President and Scott Pruitt are putting the health of hundreds of millions of us at risk.
  • Few things are more fundamental to our health than the water we drink. No one should have to worry about pollution when they turn on the tap. But that is exactly what could happen if the Trump Administration succeeds in repealing the Clean Water Rule and replacing it with a rule that will cut the heart out of the Clean Water Act.
  • 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 roll back.

Protecting rivers and streams is essential to our heritage and we must pass our legacy of stewardship on to the next generation

  • This is the biggest threat to our water in a generation. On top of the President’s proposed budget that decimates our water protection programs, the Trump Administration’s reckless and rushed repeal of the Clean Water Rule compounds the potential damage to our precious waterways.
  • Clean water is essential to the outdoor economy. In 2011, hunters spent $34 billion, anglers spent $41.8 billion, and wildlife watchers spent $55 billion. Repealing the Clean Water Rule and attacking the Clean Water Act puts our economy at risk. (source)
  • Anglers and hunters know that clean water is essential to fish and wildlife. Repealing the Clean Water Rule will put streams and wetlands throughout the country at risk of pollution and destruction.

The Clean Water Rule is about stopping pollution before it happens

  • People suffer when polluters get free passes to destroy our rivers and drinking water sources, which is exactly what repealing the Clean Water Rule will do. We need to be doing more, not less, to rein in polluters and stop pollution at the source.
  • Families will not accept a future of more polluted rivers and more dirty water flowing through our taps, our communities, and our bodies. The Trump Administration underestimates how much the public cares about commonsense protections for clean water.
  • Repealing the Clean Water Rule is another step in a polluter-powered assault on public health and our communities.

The Clean Water Rule followed a robust public process

  • Before finalizing the Clean Water Rule in 2015, EPA held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country and published a synthesis of more than 1200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, which showed that the small streams and wetlands the Rule safeguards are vital to larger downstream waters.  That won’t be the case under Scott Pruitt’s EPA.
  • Pruitt plans to ram through the repeal of the Clean Water Rule, then propose and finalize a less protective rule in less than a year. This won’t allow for meaningful consideration or proper public engagement.
  • Rolling back the rule will result in the same regulatory confusion that resulted in broad-based calls for clarity about which of our nation’s waterways 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.