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Public Comment Ends Today on Effort to Weaken Water Protections

California's vernal pools may no longer be covered by federal anti-pollution laws if a Trump administration proposal goes forward. (California Native Plant Society)
California's vernal pools may no longer be covered by federal anti-pollution laws if a Trump administration proposal goes forward. (California Native Plant Society)
September 27, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Today is the last day to comment on a Trump administration proposal to repeal the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, which sought to clarify that federal protections apply to smaller streams and seasonal creeks, not just larger waterways.

The rule currently is on hold in the courts and Trump's Environmental Protection Agency wants to scrap it, arguing that states can better regulate this issue. Now, the California Water Resource Board is considering stronger regulations of its own to replace it.

Jan Goldman-Carter, director of wetlands and water resources for the National Wildlife Federation, said industry now is fighting the state.

"It really lays bare the real intention of the Trump clean-water rollbacks," she said, "which is not to protect the state's rights, but it actually is to green-light water pollution from these various industries."

Industry groups representing oil and gas, mining, home builders and big agriculture have all voiced opposition to the Clean Water Rule and to California's efforts to replace it.

People can comment online through today at regulations.gov.

Arthur Feinstein, a board member with the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay chapter, said California's seasonal streams and vernal pools are crucial to animals, plants and people alike.

"When they are wet, they are productive for wildlife and they also collect water so that it doesn't go and flood our communities," he said, "and they recharge our groundwater."

Feinstein noted that the United States already has lost 50 percent of its historic wetlands, and predicted that if the Clean Water Rule is lifted, 98 percent of them eventually will be filled in.

The proposed rule is online at epa.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA