Statement: EPA to repeal and replace the Dirty Water Rule

The announcement means restoring Clean Water Act protections, but agency’s timeline is unclear
For Immediate Release.

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers announced steps Wednesday to repeal and replace the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The rule left half the nation’s remaining wetlands and thousands of streams without federal protection under the Clean Water Act.  Environment America and other groups have asked a court to overturn the rule.

According to the EPA’s announcement, the administration will ask a federal court to send the rule back to EPA, issue a temporary rule reverting to pre-2015 guidance, and then develop a new rule to permanently define Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The announcement set no timeline for these actions, leaving advocates concerned that numerous waterways will be exposed to pollution or degradation in the interim.

John Rumpler, Senior Attorney and Clean Water Program Director for Environment America, issued the following statement: 

“By committing to repealing and replacing the Dirty Water Rule, EPA Administrator Michael Regan has taken a vital step for America’s rivers, lakes and bays -- and for the drinking water of millions of Americans. To prevent further degradation of our waters, we call on the administration to rescind this Trump-era rule in 90 days or less. 

“From the Great Lakes to the Chesapeake Bay, streams and wetlands are vital to America’s waterways.  Wetlands filter out pollutants, provide wildlife habitat, and protect communities from flooding.  In particular, streams in the Southwest, which do not run year-round, help provide drinking water to millions of people. Yet the Trump administration’s Dirty Water Rule left half the nation’s remaining wetlands and thousands of streams without federal protection under the Clean Water Act.

“The EPA must move swiftly now, as our drinking water sources are at risk every day this rule remains on the books. Given the extensive prior record on the rule -- including widespread public opposition and criticism from EPA’s own science advisors -- the agency has all the tools it needs to repeal this drastic rollback in 90 days or less. We urge our federal environmental stewards to begin that process by the end of June. 

“Next year, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Let’s hope that by then the EPA has replaced the Dirty Water Rule with one that permanently protects all our waterways under this bedrock environmental law.”