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Donald Trump entered his presidency intent on reversing as many of his predecessor’s policies as possible and replace them with “America first” edicts. So he started signing executive orders dismantling environmental protections. One of his directives, the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) that drastically reduced federal protections for streams, marshes, and wetlands across America, was overturned by a federal judge on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.
The plaintiffs, Pascua Yaqui Tribe and other tribes, represented by Earthjustice, brought the case against the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers in May.
In her decision, Arizona U.S. District Judge Rosemary Márquez wrote that the Trump team made serious errors in writing the regulation. She added that the rule, finalized in April last year, needed to end before it could do “serious environmental harm.”
Márquez, an Obama appointee, determined the NWPA, “which gutted the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Water Rule, was too flawed to keep in place,” according to E&E News.
Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer summarized the ruling: “The court recognized that the serious legal and scientific errors of the Dirty Water Rule were causing irreparable damage to our nation’s waters and would continue to do so unless that Rule was vacated. This sensible ruling allows the Clean Water Act to continue to protect all of our waters while the Biden Administration develops a replacement rule.”
In June, the Biden administration announced it would create stronger regulations to protect America’s wetlands but would not overturn the Trump-era edict until new rules were established.
Márquez’ ruling is the latest in the legal battle to determine ordinances over the full extent of the 1972 law that forbids contaminating the “waters of the United States” without a permit. Unfortunately, the Clean Water Act failed to define which waterways fell under this regulation.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration established that temporary streams created only after a rainfall fall under The Clean Water Act’s ruling as they help purify water. However, scientists report “that even these intermittent rivulets can affect the water quality of large rivers and lakes downstream.”
A former EPA lawyer, Mark Ryan, said the Trump team basically ignored the science when they determined Obama’s rule was government overreach.
Trump’s environmental protections reversals will likely be in the courts for quite a while, as they ease strip mining and rules to allow the auctioning off of new oil and gas drilling permits.
The Republican party has long-held beliefs against the science behind climate change and continues to deny the warning signs of catastrophic environmental disasters. As a result, this issue will continue to plague the country and further divide the chasm between environmentalist and capitalist opinion.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
E&E News: Judge sinks Trump WOTUS rule; by Pamela King
Reuters: U.S. judge vacates Trump water rule on environmental grounds
The Washington Post: Federal judge throws out Trump administration rule allowing the draining and filling of streams, marshes and wetlands; by Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of David Wilson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License