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PA Streams at Risk If Clean Water Rule Repealed

Drinking water for 63 percent of Pennsylvanians comes from sources that rely on small streams. (Nicholas A. Tonelli/Wikimedia Commons)
Drinking water for 63 percent of Pennsylvanians comes from sources that rely on small streams. (Nicholas A. Tonelli/Wikimedia Commons)
June 28, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Trump administration has proposed repealing the Clean Water Rule, which protects the drinking water of one in three Americans.

Enacted in 2015, the rule clarifies protections for headwaters, rain-fed and seasonal streams, and protects wetlands that are essential fish and wildlife habitat. Collin O'Mara, president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, said the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday began the process of rescinding those protections.

"The administration's taking the formal step of undoing those rules and frankly, leaving the drinking water supply of more than 100 million Americans in limbo," he said.

Critics of the rule have called it onerous and improperly expanded the EPA's authority. However, But federation outreach consultant David Imgrund, a sportsman who lives in south-central Pennsylvania, said rescinding the rule would not only endanger the drinking water of 63 percent of the state's population but could affect the state's bottom line as well.

"$450 million was spent on fishing and recreating in Pennsylvania," he said. "So, if the waters are not protected and things decline, it would have a huge economic impact."

Nationally, in 2011, fishing alone generated $115 billion in economic activity and supported more than 800,000 jobs.

O'Mara said rescinding the rule is just the first step. The executive order signed by President Trump in March also directs the agencies to propose a replacement.

"The suggestion that they've made so far about how they would approach the rule has already been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court," he said. "So, we're likely going to be in a phase of limbo for the next several years where waterways will not be protected."

O'Mara said any revisions to the rule should be carried out through a process that is inclusive, transparent and based in science, not politics.

More information is online at nwf.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA