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A new interpretation of the Clean Water Rule was sent to the White House by the EPA on Friday. Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to scale back protections for wetlands and streams. (Photo: Varanos/Flickr/cc)

Forget His Fancy Lotion and Chick-Fil-A, Pruitt's Gutting of EPA Rule Threatens Drinking Water of 117 Million Americans

"Don't let Scott Pruitt's ethics scandals distract you, because they're not distracting him from executing his agenda of dismantling even the most basic public health protections."

Julia Conley

As Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt faces mounting ethics controversies, his agency on Friday advanced a proposal to roll back a rule designed to limit pollution in the drinking water of about 117 million Americans.

A new interpretation of the Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, after which the proposal can be released to the public for comment.

As President Barack Obama's EPA wrote the rule in 2015, it extended pollution safeguards to two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetland. Previously, only larger public water bodies like the Chesapeake Bay and the Puget Sound had been protected from pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals used by farmers and developers.

As requested by President Donald Trump last year, the new rule is expected to stipulate that only large public bodies of water and the rivers and streams that flow into them should be protected—a rollback that critics say threatens public health and continues the administration's deregulation agenda.

In addition, this narrow interpretation of the Clean Water Rule could directly benefit the president and his business, noted Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW).

Some Pruitt and Trump critics noted that the proposal was sent to the OMB as Pruitt faces criticism over a number of alleged ethics violations—including his use of EPA resources to search Washington, D.C. for a specific lotion, his demand that an aide set up a call to secure his wife a franchising opportunity with Chick-fil-A, and his use of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to buy personalized journals and pens. The scandals have led some Republicans to call for Pruitt's resignation.


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