President Joe Biden’s administration finalized regulations on Friday that protect hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, replacing a regulation issued by the Trump administration that would have rolled back protections for clean water nationwide. The “Dirty Water Rule” would have eliminated federal Clean Water Act protections for millions of miles of streams and tens of millions of acres of wetlands, reports NRDC.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the new regulation is based on frameworks that were in place prior to 2015.
“This rule also considers the best available science and extensive public comment to establish a definition of “waters of the United States” that supports public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth.”
The rule, effective 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, also determines which "waters of the United States" are protected by the Clean Water Act. For decades, environmentalists and the agricultural and industrial sectors have disagreed over the term. On one hand, environmentalists have wanted to increment the limits on pollution entering the United States’ waterways and on the other hand, farmers and the industrial sector believe that extending regulations is negative for business. Federal officials have said that the newly drafted rule includes a "durable definition" of waterways to reduce uncertainty.
EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox told The Associated Press: "We have put forward a rule that's clear, it's durable, and it balances that protection of our water resources with the needs of all water users, whether it's farmers, ranchers, industry, watershed organizations.”
She added that the final rule will modestly increase protections for some streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds
Jon Devine, director of federal water policy for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) said: “It’s a smart move to take this off the books. Eliminating the anti-science Trump ‘Dirty Water Rule’ and codifying longstanding practices is a sensible, good-government action. And this comes at a time when we’re seeing unprecedented attacks on federal clean water protections by polluters and their allies. While the nation still has significant work to do to fully protect important waters, it’s encouraging to see the country taking a step in the right direction to protect the waters we need for everyone’s health and the environment.”