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"Their plan puts the water used by hundreds of millions of Americans for drinking, bathing, cooking and recreation at risk." Blan Holman, Southern Environmental Law Center

Trump Administration Sued for Suspension of Clean Water Rule

Multiple states and conservation groups are legally challenging the Trump administration's decision to delay the Obama-era Clean Water Rule.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put a two-year suspension on the rule, also known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS), which protects large water bodies like lakes and rivers but also listed smaller waterways such as streams, ponds and wetlands for federal protection.

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Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. SenateEnergy / Flickr

Senate Republicans Push Attacks on Endangered Species, Clean Water Under Guise of Farming

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), will hold a hearing Wednesday advancing its goals of repealing the Endangered Species Act and gutting the Clean Water Act.

The hearing will highlight testimony from industrial-scale agribusinesses and preview environmental attacks likely to be included in the 2018 Farm Bill, including exempting pesticides from the protections of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act.

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Trump Watch
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Official White House Photo by Mitchell Resnick

EPA Blocks Clean Water Rule to Replace With 'Industry-Friendly' Alternative

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put a two-year suspension on the Clean Water Rule, an Obama-era policy defining which waters can be protected against pollution and destruction under federal law.

Last year, President Trump declared the 2015 law, also known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS), "a horrible, horrible rule," tasking EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to replace it with a looser and more "industry-friendly" definition, the New York Times reported.

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Trump Watch

The Pebble Mine Is Too Toxic Even for the Trump Administration

In a stunning reversal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it is suspending its effort to reverse an Obama-era plan to restrict mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska based on a controversial mine project's risks to the region's important salmon fisheries and natural resources.

The unexpected move from President Trump's pro-business administration was a blow to Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals. The mine developer is proposing to extract one of the world's largest copper and gold deposits from the pristine watershed. Shares fell as much as 26 percent on Monday following the EPA's surprise decision.

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Llima Orosa / Flickr

EPA Delays Lead and Copper Rule Again, Promises ‘War on Lead’

By Brett Walton

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pledged that lead regulations will be a prominent feature of the agency's work in 2018—but that work will take longer than anticipated.

The agency expects that a revision to federal rules that are designed to reduce the risk of lead in drinking water will be published in draft form in August 2018, a seven-month delay from a timetable announced this summer.

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Pruitt Appears in Big Beef Video Urging Farmers to Kill Clean Water Rule

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt appears in a video sponsored by the beef industry calling on farmers and ranchers to file official comments on a proposal to withdraw and rewrite the Obama-era "Waters of the United States" rule (or WOTUS) before the Aug. 28 deadline.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) video was produced by the beef lobbying organization's policy division, Beltway Beef and was released last week. Notably, NCBA spent $117,375 in lobbying last year.

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Here's How You Can Help Stop the Atlantic Bridge Pipeline

By Kimberly Ong

New York State is poised to make a decision on the Atlantic Bridge Project, a natural gas pipeline that would expand the existing Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline system, a vast 1,100 miles-long pipeline system that traverses New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

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Buffalo Pipeline Leaks 19,000 Gallons of Crude Oil on Farmland in Oklahoma

The Buffalo Pipeline, owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., leaked approximately 450 barrels, or roughly 18,900 gallons, of crude oil onto farmland in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma last week.

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Interactive Map Shows if Your Drinking Water Is at Risk From Trump's Executive Order

By Craig Cox and Soren Rundquist

The Trump administration is threatening to remove safeguards that protect the drinking water of more than one-third of Americans.

Some 117 million people get at least some of their drinking water from small streams. For 72 million people in 1,033 counties, more than half of their drinking water comes from small streams. Ensuring that their water is safe means keeping the water in these streams clean.

Right now, the Clean Water Act protects these streams from pollution. But this week President Trump issued an executive order directing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to rescind or revise the Clean Water Rule or replace it with a new rule.

This critically important rule determines which streams, rivers and lakes are protected from pollution by the Clean Water Act. The rule also extends protection for millions of acres of wetlands that filter drinking water.

Industry and agribusiness have been pushing for years to roll back the Clean Water Rule and protect only the biggest streams and rivers. Now they've found a friend in the Trump administration.

Small streams are where big rivers start and the best science confirms that dirty streams means even dirtier rivers. Millions of Americans drink water directly connected to 234,000 miles of small, potentially unprotected streams.

In 21 different states, small streams provide drinking water for 1 million or more people. More than 5 million people in each New York, Texas and Pennsylvania get drinking water from small streams, as do more than 3 million in each California, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona.

Environmental Working Group, from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Geographic Information Systems Analysis of the Surface Drinking Water Provided by Intermittent, Ephemeral and Headwater Streams in the U.S.

President Trump's executive order immediately threatens drinking water for millions of Americans, but it's not the only threat. Dozens of lawsuits seeking to gut the Clean Water Rule have been filed by industry and agribusiness and states catering to those interests. Congress could meddle with the Clean Water Act itself to deny protection to small streams and wetlands.

The Clean Water Rule is a common-sense safeguard supported by a majority of Americans. It is supported by many cities and towns that depend on unpolluted drinking water sources and natural infrastructure like wetlands to filter pollutants and absorb floodwaters. Small businesses that rely on clean water and healthy wildlife habitats, such as craft breweries and outdoor recreation companies, also strongly support the Clean Water Rule.

Undermining, weakening or rescinding this vital rule is a gift to corporate polluters and Big Ag and a threat to public health and the environment.

The Environmental Working Group analyzed data from a 2009 EPA study that examined "regional patterns of dependence on intermittent, ephemeral and headwater streams to supply public drinking water systems in the United States, using the most recent, valid data available."

The EPA mapped a Source Protection Area or SPA, for every public drinking water system. The agency defined an SPA as "the area upstream from a drinking water intake that provides water to a public drinking water system during a 24-hour period."

The EPA's approach likely underestimates the contribution small steams make to drinking water supplies. Small streams feed the large rivers that millions of people rely on for drinking water, but are too far upstream from the drinking water intake to be included in the EPA's analysis.

In the map below, the blue shaded area is a SPA. Water from streams in the SPA will reach the intake, indicated by a red dot, within 24 hours.

In all, the EPA assessed 413,104 miles of waterways within SPAs. The assessment found that 57 percent or 234,459 stream miles, were intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams.

Environmental Protection Agency, Geographic Information Systems Analysis of the Surface Drinking Water Provided by Intermittent, Ephemeral and Headwater Streams in the U.S.

The Environmental Working Group used the EPA's data to identify the number of people living in counties that depend most on small streams. We defined these as counties where:

  • 100 percent of residents depend on surface water for drinking water.
  • More than half of the streams providing source water are intermittent, ephemeral or headwaters streams.
  • The local utility serves at least 1,000 people.

Craig Cox is the senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group. Soren Rundquist is director of spatial analysis at the Environmental Working Group.

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