President’s Executive Order, EPA cuts threaten communities’ clean drinking water, health, and safety

President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House. (© Getty)

President Donald Trump signed an executive order attacking the Clean Water Rule today, and is expected to call for major budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency this evening, threatening thousands of jobs in the Southeast and the health and safety of Southeastern families.

“These actions are a one-two punch to the Southeast. This executive order defies common sense—you can’t open the door to stream and wetlands pollution and expect our region’s rivers to remain clean and healthy sources of drinking water,” said Navis Bermudez, SELC Deputy Legislative Director. “Furthermore, our region’s coastal communities depend on wetlands as vital protections against storms and floods. This is a major attack against the nation’s Clean Water Act, which has provided fundamental water protections for nearly 45 years and guaranteed clean water for all Americans.”

After years of uncertainty, the federal Clean Water Rule clarified environmental protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters that feed drinking water sources for nearly 20 million people in the Southeast. The rule, managed by the Environmental Protection Agency, was finalized in 2016 following years of negotiations.

The Clean Water Rule protects 60 percent of our nation’s stream miles and our region’s $12 billion tourism industry. Without the protections outlined in it, factories, sewage treatment facilities, and other polluters may be able to directly dump into these waterways without any public notice. The threat of losing these protections reiterates the important role the Environmental Protection Agency plays in protecting clean water in all 50 states.

“The expected cuts to EPA’s budget would not affect some meaningless Washington bureaucracy; this is a job-killing action that threatens communities, economies, and families throughout the Southeast,” said Nat Mund, SELC Legislative Director. “The devil is in the details but, if early reports are to be believed, we will be facing major cuts in core protections. If the Trump Administration will not stand up to big money special interests, the Southern Environmental Law Center will step in to defend these important protections for Southeastern communities.”

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