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New Trump Water Rules Set Back Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

The Trump administration's new water rules loosens pollution regulations for streams and wetlands, which flow into large bodies of water such as Chesapeake Bay. (Wikimedia)
The Trump administration's new water rules loosens pollution regulations for streams and wetlands, which flow into large bodies of water such as Chesapeake Bay. (Wikimedia)
January 28, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Trump administration announced last week that it will remove millions of miles of streams and roughly half the country's wetlands from federal protection.

The move will significantly set back the cleanup efforts of Chesapeake Bay, according to Jonathan Gendzier, staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. He pointed out the change allows landowners to dump pesticides into waterways for the first time since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.

"Elimination of federal protections for those wetlands in Virginia and other Chesapeake Bay states really puts at risk the progress that we've made in cleaning up the bay and could place an unfair burden on Virginia as well," Gendzier said.

The Environmental Protection Agency also said Monday it will not force Pennsylvania to abide by a regional anti-pollution program for the bay adopted under the Obama administration. Farmers, the fossil-fuel industry and homebuilders have cheered Trump's new water rule, saying it will relieve them of having to follow tough regulations that interfere with production.

But environmental groups say Trump's rollback takes away clean-water protections that have helped clean endangered waters such as Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River for almost 50 years. Trump's move also loosens regulations on groundwater pollution, which could lead to more contaminated drinking water, Gendzier said.

He said it's significant that the announcement of the new rule took place at a homebuilder's convention in Las Vegas.

"This rule really is not serving the interests of ordinary people, families and communities in Virginia and around the nation, it really serves industrial interests and industries like homebuilders as well as developers," Gendzier said.

Almost half of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for drinking water, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Several state attorneys general are expected to join with scientists and environmental groups, including the Southern Environmental Law Center, to sue to overturn Trump's water rule.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA