The Trump administration is continuing its dangerous agenda to gut environmental protections by taking aim at clean, healthy waters and rolling back federal protection for waters of the U.S. (“WOTUS”) this week. The new rule flouts basic science, common sense environmental protection, and Supreme Court precedent. Protecting public health and welfare is more important than ever, and we will not allow Trump’s anti-science, pro-polluter power grab to go unanswered. So Food & Water Watch, along with the Environmental Integrity Project, is suing the Trump administration to overturn its “Dirty Water Rule.”
Trump’s Agenda To Help Big Ag Strip The Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act has proven one of the most effective environmental laws in U.S. history, and has restored and protected countless rivers, lakes, and streams since the 1970s — so naturally Trump has vowed to do Big Ag’s bidding and undermine it from the very beginning. The Dirty Water Rule is the culmination of that promise, which Trump’s EPA pushed through despite overwhelming opposition — including from the EPA’s own scientific experts.
So what does the Dirty Water Rule do? In a nutshell, it severely reduces the amount of water in the U.S. protected by federal law, and gives factory farms and other industrial sources freedom to pollute. The EPA’s own analysis found that the Rule would eliminate Clean Water Act protection for 51% of the nation’s wetlands and 18% of the nation’s streams. In addition to eliminating protections for wetlands and streams, the Dirty Water Rule categorically disregards subsurface water that clear and undisputed scientific evidence shows can carry pollution and seriously affect water quality as it moves downstream.
This threatens far-reaching effects on water quality across the country, will leave frontline communities more vulnerable than ever, and will squander irreplaceable natural resources necessary for clean drinking water and healthy ecosystems.
Factory Farms Get Another Free Pass To Pollute Water
The Rule provides more leeway for factory farms to treat our shared natural resources as their toxic dumping grounds, opening the door to even less oversight of factory farm pollution. Factory farms and the unfathomable amounts of waste they produce are a leading source of water pollution, including dangerous algae blooms and pathogen contamination such as E. coli. Factory farms are also contaminating drinking water across the country with dangerous pollutants like nitrate, leaving local residents to pay the price.
In response to fear-mongering and hysteria by the Farm Bureau and its Big Ag allies, Trump’s EPA is using the Dirty Water Rule to make sure that factory farms are even less accountable. By taking many of the waters that factory farms directly pollute out of the equation, the Rule is likely to result in less oversight and more irresponsible, dangerous practices so that Big Ag can line its pockets. Now that factory farms’ role in poisoning our irreplaceable water resources is clearer than ever, it’s time to rein them in, not give out yet another free pass to pollute.
The Dirty Water Rule Is Blatantly Illegal
The Dirty Water Rule isn’t just dangerous, it’s illegal. EPA pushed it forward fully aware that it runs afoul of well-established Supreme Court precedent interpreting the scope of the Clean Water Act. And in April, the Court issued an opinion making it even more clear that the rule should not survive legal challenge. In County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, the Supreme Court held that the Clean Water Act covers pollution discharges through groundwater when it is the “functional equivalent of a direct discharge” to surface waters. The Court described the Trump administration’s arguments in the case, which tracked the Dirty Water Rule’s narrow interpretation of federal water protections, as “difficult to reconcile” with the Clean Water Act and unreasonably “allowing easy evasion of the [Act’s] basic purpose.” We agree.
The Maui decision is a powerful confirmation that polluters cannot get around the Clean Water Act by merely dumping their waste next to or upstream of major waterways. Because the Dirty Water Rule attempts to evade that, we think this gives us solid ground from which to legally challenge it. We look forward to seeing the Trump administration in court.
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