It sounds a bit counterintuitive for the Environmental Protection Agency to cut back on its protection of natural environments, but that’s exactly what it’s doing. The EPA is drastically reducing the number of US waterways and wetlands that will receive federal protection under the Clean Water Act — a decision opposed by even the agency’s own science advisors. Many business owners viewed the initial protections as an overreach of federal authority, as they made it difficult for farmers, builders, and mining companies to use the land as they wished.
According to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, “All states have their own protections for waters within their borders, and many regulate more broadly than the federal government. Our new rule recognizes this relationship and strikes the proper balance between Washington, DC, and the states. And it clearly details which waters are subject to federal control under the Clean Water Act and, importantly, which waters fall solely under the states’ jurisdiction.”
The EPA’s own Science Advisory Board, however, opposes the rollback of protections. In a draft letter posted online, it said the rollback “decreases protection for our Nation’s waters and does not support the objective of restoring and maintaining ‘the chemical, physical and biological integrity’ of these waters.”
Trump has argued that the Obama-era protections “basically took your property away from [America’s farmers].” According to the New York Times, this is one of 95 environmental rules rolled back since Trump took office.