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NV State Officials Stand By as EPA Withdraws Clean Water Protections

Conservation groups say seasonal wetlands in arid states like Nevada are likely to lose federal protections by repealing the Waters of the United States rule. (Ken_Lund)
Conservation groups say seasonal wetlands in arid states like Nevada are likely to lose federal protections by repealing the Waters of the United States rule. (Ken_Lund)
September 13, 2019

CARSON CITY, Nev. – The Trump administration announced on Thursday the withdrawal of Obama-era anti-pollution protections for smaller streams, known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule – and in Nevada, state officials are not denouncing the move.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford's statement says, "At this time, Nevada believes it would be in its best interest to remain under the pre-2015 WOTUS rule."

Scott Edwards, with the nonprofit Food & Water Watch, says states are free to raise their standards above the federal level – and thinks Nevada is too close to the mining industry.

"The whole Southwest mining industry is not well regulated by the state governments," Edwards charges. "A lot of the challenges to the Obama 2015 WOTUS rule were coming out of southwestern mining states, who didn't like what they claimed was the overreach of the Obama rule."

Several years ago, former Attorney General Adam Laxalt joined a dozen other states in suing the EPA to get the WOTUS rule overturned.

Neither Ford's office nor the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection would comment on the current status of that lawsuit, but NDEP said it is in agreement with Ford that Nevada is "better off" under the pre-2015 rules.

The 2015 rule made smaller waterways and seasonal streams subject to Clean Water Act protections.

Edwards claims that Trump's replacement rule will imperil the country's water supply and allow developers, industrial farming operations and mining concerns to pollute smaller waterways.

"Under an analysis of the Trump WOTUS rule, over half of the wetlands in this country will have protections stripped away from them," he adds.

During the public comment period, the EPA was deluged with pleas to keep the Obama-era rule. But the agency scrapped it anyway, and is expected to issue a less-restrictive set of rules later this year.


Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV