Washington, DC — The Trump effort to slash the scope of Clean Water Act protections is unprecedented, underhanded, and unsupported by a factual record, according to public comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The net result of his plan would jeopardize the drinking water sources for one in three American, weaken flood control, and degrade aquatic habitats.
Sept. 27 was the public comment deadline for Step 1 of a two-step plan to substantially cut the amount of streams, ponds and wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act. Like his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump wants to repeal President Obama’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule which would increase the extent of waters by between 3 to 5 percent. Per a Trump Executive Order, Step 2 is a new rule “consistent with the opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia” in his 2006 dissenting opinion limiting Clean Water Act jurisdiction to waters that are “navigable.”
In comments filed Sept. 27, PEER points out that –
- Scientists estimate that as much as 60% of U.S. waters and wetlands, and up to 90% in the arid West, would no longer be protected under the Scalia approach. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 117 million Americans – one in three people – get their drinking water from sources that would have no legal protection under the Clean Water Act;
- Trump’s plan to cede clean water primacy to the states and tribes would be disastrous because these governments lack the resources to protect the waters that would be abandoned; and
- The cost-benefit analysis hastily thrown together to justify WOTUS repeal was improperly done, ignores the overwhelming weight of evidence, and otherwise does not pass a straight-face test.
“This plan is premised on the preposterous notion that wetlands have no – as in zero – economic benefit, a proposition that flies in the face of every scientific and economic article written about wetlands valuation,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney and scientist who specialized in wetland protection when she was at EPA, predicting that the Trump plan will ultimately be thrown out in court. “The net result of this Trump initiative will be a colossal waste of time that otherwise could have been spent making America’s environment great again.”
Every modern president, including Reagan and both Bushs, have extolled the importance of protecting wetlands. By contrast, Trump has denigrated the policies of his predecessors, claiming they protect puddles and ditches even though both are explicitly excluded from WOTUS.
“We have just had a series of devastating hurricanes whose havoc was heightened by the loss of wetlands and other buffers,” added Bennett, noting that the White House has identified not a single lesson learned from these horrendous events. “We now have a developer president who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.”