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Biden's First Step to Restore Protections to Critical US Waterways Falls Short

Drinking water sources for 117 million people living in the United States remain at risk.
WASHINGTON -

Today, the Biden administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they would initiate two rulemaking procedures under the Clean Water Act. The first rulemaking would restore pre 2015 protections to waterways in the United States. The second rulemaking would establish a new definition of what constitutes Waters of the United States (WOTUS), a critical designation that results in stronger, nationally-consistent protections for those bodies of water. However, Trump’s Dirty Water Rule will remain in effect until the first round of rulemaking – which will take an undetermined amount of time -- is completed, leaving thousands of water bodies vulnerable to contamination, pollution and destruction.

“Today’s action falls well short of the Biden Administration’s commitments to protecting our environment and communities,” said Julian Gonzalez, Legislative Counsel for Healthy Communities at Earthjustice. “We are urging the EPA to swiftly extend full clean Water Act protections to all the nation’s waters, as they are urgently needed to stop destruction from industry polluters caused by Trump’s Dirty Water Rule. Critical wetlands, rivers and streams are being destroyed from coast to coast at a rapid rate with the U.S. Army Corp’s aggressive implementation of the Trump Rule.”

Trumps’s attacks on our waters have affected communities across the country. Millions of Americans rely on the Clean Water Act to protect their drinking water sources. Modeling done by Earthjustice indicates that the Trump’s Dirty Water Rule gutted protections for thousands of waterbodies, making the destruction or pollution of those waters easier. With the federal government’s aggressive application of the Dirty Water Rule. This rule is already wreaking havoc and harming water resources, especially ephemeral waters and isolated wetlands such as those found in semi-arid environments and the glaciated prairie pothole region of the U.S. Because of the Dirty Water Rule, all ephemeral and some intermittently flowing streams and rivers, as well as wetlands adjacent to these streams and rivers and wetlands that are considered “isolated” or connected to the water table underground could no longer be protected from pollution or destruction under the Clean Water Act.

In response to Trump’s rollback, Earthjustice filed challenges on behalf of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Quinault Indian Nation of Washington state, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa of Minnesota, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, the Tohono O’odham Tribe of Arizona, Mi Familia Vota, Puget Sound Keeper Alliance, Idaho Conservation League, and the Sierra Club. Earthjustice will continue to fight to ensure that all of our Nation’s waters are fully protected.

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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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