Over the years Washington has taken strong steps in the cause of clean water, starting with the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 that criminalized dirty discharges into public waters –-the nation’s first federal environmental law -- and then, notably in 1972, the Clean Water Act that set in motion rulemaking to restore and otherwise protect the quality of lakes, rivers and streams.
Based on Donald Trump’s public statements about the environment – consistently, that climate change has no human cause and, recently, that wind power causes cancer -- it’s fair to speculate that, were he president in 1899 or 1972, Trump would have demonized the proponents of those clean water bills and done everything he could do to block them.
What else to expect of a man who since his first weeks in office has been dead set on scrapping a sensible measure to protect public waters that was initiated by the Obama administration in 2015?
The measure, which is called the Waters of the United States, extends to small and intermittent streams and wetlands the same federal water quality protections that exist for large bodies of water..
The logic of the rule is that protections of large bodies of water — including sources of drinking water — are lacking if small streams are able to deliver pollution from whatever gets into them from farms, mines or property developers.
The Trump administration proposes substitute language for the Waters of the United States, principally to put small and intermittent streams under the purview of states whose standards of environmental control are far from uniform.
For background on the matter, I recommend two sources:
Me, I like the Waters of the United States Rules as they were initially drafted. If you do, too, I recommend filing a comment to that effect with the EPA. Don’t put it off: the comment period for the proposed gutting of the law by the new administration ends April 15.