The Trump administration has revoked on Thursday one of Obama era’s most extensive environmental rules that protected many wetlands and small streams in the United States from contaminants, but that had riled opposition by farmers, coal miners and home developers who believed it hurt economic development.
The decision to repeal the 2015 Water of the United States rule, also known as WOTUS, is the latest in a series of attempts to roll back environmental regulations established when Barack Obama was president.
Environmental groups have denounced the administration’s actions calling the move “shameful and dangerous.”
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement: “Today’s Step 1 action fulfils a key promise of President Trump and sets the stage for Step 2 – a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders and developers nationwide.”
According to The Guardian, Andrew Wheeler said at a news conference that revoking this rule “puts an end to an egregious power grab, eliminates an ongoing patchwork of clean water regulations and restores a longstanding and familiar regulatory framework.”
“As the scope expands, so too has Washington’s power over private property and the states’ traditional authority to regulate their land water resources,” he added.
The replacement policy to be developed by the EPA and the U.S. Army will have a more restrictive definition of protected wetlands and streams by re-establishing water regulations that were issued in the 1980s. Wheeler also said that they would start to reanalyse which streams can be regulated, an assignment which will not be completed until this winter.
The Obama-era regulation had been put in place in 22 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories while the 1980s-era regulations were in place in 27 states.
Environmental groups have criticised the move saying the new policy will leave over one million people with less safe drinking water and will remove protection for many small streams and wetlands that limit flooding, filter pollutants and provide homes for a variety of animals.
The Natural Resources Defense Council said the administration’s action would be challenged in court.
“The Clean Water Rule represented solid science and smart public policy,” the group said in a statement. “Where it has been enforced, it has protected important waterways and wetlands, providing certainty to all stakeholders.”
Several governors, such as North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, welcomed the announcement, saying it recognized “states’ ability to manage their own waters.”