You may not have heard of the Clean Water Rule, or even the Clean Water Act on which it’s based, but if you live in the US it has a direct impact on your life. Essentially, it ensures that all waterways that provide drinkable water to the US population remain protected and free from pollutants and toxins.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the leadership of the notoriously anti-science, climate denying, coal-friendly Scott Pruitt, is sneakily planning to revoke that rule. The idea that clean drinking water is of dubious importance would seem out of place in any point in human history – except, of course, it’s 2017.
Announced via a press release that was unleashed without much fanfare, the EPA, along with the US Army, wishes to scrap the Clean Water Rule under the auspices of a “substantive re-evaluation”, one which will aim to completely change which streams, wetlands, lakes, and so on will remain protected.
This move doesn’t come as any sort of surprise. Back in February, President Trump signed an executive order that aimed to “review” the Clean Water Rule. It was said at the time to be a move that would restore power to the individual states, and the same idea has been espoused this time around.
“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses,” Pruitt said in the statement. The language of the text suggests that – yet again, when it comes to environmental or climate issues – the federal government has been too overbearing and its reach needs to be shortened.
In reality, however, restoring “power” back to the states means that more waterways will become polluted. States that are not reliant on fracking, coal mining, or petrochemical industries will likely keep their streams protected, but other states that receive considerable income from these groups – and states with lawmakers that are lobbied by the fossil fuel industry – will likely remove their protections.
For the most part, opposition to the Clean Water Rule has come from industry officials who complain, normally via obscuring legalese, that not being allowed to pollute in streams hampers their business and costs them jobs.
There is no evidence that the Rule is an economic impediment, but that’s almost beside the point. The fact that this is even an argument that is merely being considered by some politicians, let alone agreed with, is mind-blowing – but here we are.
Trump once described the rule as a “massive power grab”, although he has also said that “clean water, crystal clean water is vitally important.” By revoking this Obama-era rule, though, he is directly putting more than 100 million Americans directly at risk from drinking polluted water.