While the train of salacious headlines from inside the White House keeps roaring full speed ahead, they’re also continuing with their particular destabilizing policy platform. According to reporting circulating early Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally finalized a planned repeal of the so-called Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which was established under the Obama administration and expanded federal jurisdiction over regulating what goes into bodies of water. President Donald Trump has denounced the original rule as too restrictive on economic development.
Back in December 2018, when the EPA first got their plans to dump this rule moving, agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler claimed:
‘For the first time, we are clearly defining the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways. Our simpler and clearer definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.’
The provisions of the rule change would leave vulnerable land features like “many” ditches outside the realm of federal regulation. Although there’s still a chance for state authorities to step in to regulate the areas, that means that federal authorities would be taking a step back from even the possibility of looking at practices like dumping pollutants into roadside ditches. Overall, the proposed rule change “reverts standards back to the 1986 guidelines under the Clean Water Act,” CBS notes.
The Trump administration is unrolling their finalized plan to dump the hot-button waterways protection regulation without a back-up plan even in place, also according to CBS. The plan that they do eventually come up with to replace the rule they’re trying to dump is unsurprisingly considering precedent “expected to cover fewer waterways than the current one and weaken existing protections.”
The original rule has attracted opposition from the kinds of corporate interests that Trump and his cronies have often allied themselves with while in office. CBS notes that the National Federation of Independent Business even sued the Obama administration over the measure. Considering precedent of concerned interest groups taking on the Trump administration’s attempts at rolling back provisions like the WOTUS rule, there are likely to be ensuing court battles over this new development in the case as well.
The rule change is part of a long-running campaign from the Trump administration to erode environmental protections in the service of business. Overall, the rule changes have had sobering effects — in 2018, emissions of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions in the United States actually went up by 3.4 percent, according to a report released in early 2019 by the Rhodium Group. That means that more of the material has been spewed into the atmosphere that contributes not just to global warming but other aspects of the volatile climate unfolding as part of the ongoing climate emergency.
Some of the steps that are part of this campaign include recent Trump administration challenges to California state government efforts to roll back emissions levels of cars sold there. The Trump administration argues that only the federal government has the authority to make such policy moves — and, separately, have been preparing regulation to weaken automobile emissions standards.
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