An egret looks for food along Valhalla Pond in Riverview, Fla.
Chris O’Meara / AP
Since his first weeks in office, President Donald Trump has targeted environmental and public health regulations that he says imposed unnecessary burdens on business. Speaking to farmers in Texas on Sunday, Trump repeated his frequent charge that an Obama-era attempt in 2015 to more clearly define what water bodies qualify for federal pollution protection was “one of the most ridiculous regulations of all.”
Thursday’s changes to the clean water rule have long been sought by builders, oil and gas developers, farmers and others. But environmental groups and public-health advocates say the rollback will allow businesses to dump pollutants into newly federally unprotected waterways and fill in some wetlands, threatening public water supplies downstream and harming wildlife and habitat.
The administration’s action “will allow wetlands, streams and rivers across a vast stretch of America to be obliterated with pollution,” Hartl said, contending the rollback would speed extinction for dozens of endangered species. “People and wildlife need clean water to thrive. Destroying half of our nation’s streams and wetlands will be one of Trump’s ugliest legacies.”
The administration says the changes would allow farmers to plow their fields without fear of unintentionally straying over the banks of a federally protected dry creek, bog or ditch. But the government’s own figures show it is real estate developers and those in other nonfarm business sectors that take out the most permits for impinging on wetlands and waterways, and stand to reap the biggest regulatory and financial relief.