Press Release | January 23, 2020

Trump Administration Announces Unprecedented Move to Strip Clean Water Act Protections

Southern Environmental Law Center to represent conservation groups in challenging rule

WASHINGTON–The Trump administration today announced its rule to gut long-established clean water protections despite opposition from hundreds of thousands of Americans. The unprecedented move, removing Clean Water Act protections that have been in place for nearly fifty years, would jeopardize the drinking-water sources for 200 million Americans, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center which will represent conservation organizations to challenge the rule.

“The administration eliminated clean water protections to protect polluters instead of protecting people,” said Blan Holman, senior attorney of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Charleston office and leader of its Clean Water Defense Initiative.  “This rule is the culmination of an insider campaign to gut bipartisan protections that have safeguarded the nation’s water for decades, and will endanger the health and environment of families and communities across the entire country.”

“If allowed to stand, this bulldozing of clean water protections would be among this administration’s dirtiest, most dangerous deeds. We plan to fight them with everything we have to protect our communities and clean water.”

The final rule announced by EPA redefines what “waters of the United States” are protected or unprotected under the Clean Water Act, and eliminates clean water protections that have prevented unchecked pollution from entering our waterways and drinking water sources for 47 years. In adopting this rule, the EPA is making pollution worse, violating Supreme Court precedent and decades of well-established agency practice, and embracing an approach Congress explicitly rejected when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 with bipartisan support.

The EPA’s own Science Advisory Board consisting mostly of scientists appointed by this administration warned the agency that this proposed rule was inconsistent with established science. The overwhelming majority of the 626,075 comments received by EPA opposed the rule. Americans across the country voiced concerns about EPA’s proposed draft including state floodplain managers and wetland managers, state wildlife agencies and international councils, state environmental agencies, associations representing family commercial fishing businesses, several fly-fishing related businesses, river guides and paddling outfitters, outdoor apparel company Patagonia, outdoor recreational enthusiasts represented by several organizations, 59 craft breweries from across the country, twelve scientific societies that represent more than 200,000 scientists, numerous associations representing public and children’s health advocates, cities and counties, small and family farmers, environmental law professors, faith organizations, and conservation organizations too numerous to count.

In April, SELC filed comments on the EPA’s proposal on behalf of 80 nonprofit organizations. Full comments are available here.

In October 2019, SELC also challenged the EPA’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ repeal of clean water protections under the Clean Water Act, one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on behalf of several conservation groups.

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Press Contacts

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: [email protected]