Trump expected to roll back Obama-era clean water regulations

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks after a tour of the Flint water plant on September 14, 2016 in Flint, Michigan.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The Trump administration is expected on Thursday to repeal a major Obama-era clean water regulation that limited the amount of pollution and chemicals that can be used near bodies of water like streams and wetlands. 

The rollback of the Waters of the United States rule is scheduled to be announced at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that has pushed for its repeal and replacement. 

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed replacing the 2015 water rule in December following an executive order from President Donald Trump, who has criticized the regulations for curbing the rights of farmers, developers and landowners.

The new rule would limit the number of waterways the federal government can protect from pollution, including ditches, storm water control facilities and groundwater systems. It would also limit the government’s oversight to larger bodies of water. The repeal could take effect in just a few weeks. 

Environmental groups condemned the move to weaken water regulations, claiming that loosening restrictions will substantially harm the country’s sources of safe drinking water. 

“The Clean Water Rule represented solid science and smart public policy. Where it has been enforced, it has protected important waterways and wetlands, providing certainty to all stakeholders,” said Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

“The Trump administration’s wild-eyed attempts to reward polluters, however, knows no bounds, so it is repealing these important protections without regard for the law or sound science.”

In contrast, farming groups that represent a vital voting constituency for Trump have supported the repeal of the regulation, which they claimed restricted them from using their land properly.

Under the rule, farmers were restricted from several types of land use, including plowing and planting, and would need permits from the EPA to use fertilizers and pesticides that could run off from the land into the water.