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Trump EPA Weakens Clean Water Protections

Vernal pools like this one will lose federal protections as the EPA withdraws the WOTUS rule.(California Native Plant Society)
Vernal pools like this one will lose federal protections as the EPA withdraws the WOTUS rule.(California Native Plant Society)
September 13, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Trump administration gutted Obama-era water protections on Thursday – and now, conservation groups are pushing harder than ever for a bill to reinstate them in California.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formally repealed the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that gave smaller tributaries and seasonal streams protection under the Clean Water Act.

Sierra Club California Director Kathryn Phillips said she supports Senate Bill 1, which would raise state environmental standards to pre-Trump levels.

As Phillips put it, "They will beef those up to take up the slack where the federal regulations are going away."

The Trump administration says the 2015 WOTUS rule was too much of a burden on industry, including agriculture, mining, oil and gas and real estate developers.

Senate Bill 1 has already passed the California Senate and is expected to get a vote in the full State Assembly on Friday evening.

Rolling back this rule means that once again, the Clean Water Act applies only to "navigable waters." But Phillips argued that all water systems, above- and below-ground, are connected and should be protected.

"As John Muir used to say, 'Everything is hitched to everything else,'" she said. "You cannot expect the river system that you depend on to be clean water if you have fouled the streams that flow into that."

The Trump administration is expected to release its less-restrictive version of the WOTUS rule this winter.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA