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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Photo by Tami Heilemann, Interior

At a speech in North Dakota last month, President Trump boasted that his administration is refocusing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to its "core mission: clean air and clean water."

"That's what I want—clean air," he continued. "Think of it. We talk about the—I want beautiful clean air, and I want crystal-clean water, right? That's what we want."

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Tyson Foods, the nation's largest chicken producer, has taken "full responsibility" for accidentally releasing an acidic chemical used in chicken feed into the city of Monett, Missouri's wastewater treatment system that resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 fish.

The poultry giant unit pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court in Springfield, Missouri on two criminal charges of violating the Clean Water Act that stemmed from discharges at its slaughter and processing facility in Monett, Missouri, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

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By Rebecca Long, American Rivers

On June 27 Administrator Scott Pruitt of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a roll back of an Obama-era administration policy that protected more than half the nation's streams from pollution. "We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses," Pruitt said in a statement at the time. But what is the Clean Water Rule (CWR), why was it never implemented, and how will repealing it affect the drinking water of one in three Americans?

The Obama administration introduced the Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the United States rule, in 2015. The regulation was meant to clarify portions of the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA explicitly protects the "waters of the United States," which are defined under previous regulations as "traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, all other waters that could affect interstate or foreign commerce, impoundments of waters of the United States, tributaries, the territorial seas, and adjacent wetlands."

However, under the CWA, it was difficult to discern if certain bodies of water were federally protected or not. Were wetlands adjacent to non-navigable tributaries of navigable waters protected or not? Confusing, right? These uncertainties lead to frustrations between developers and environmental protection groups, and ultimately, were addressed several times by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 27, 2015, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released the CWR as a means to clarify the CWA. The rule maintained much of the old definition of the "Waters of the United States," but took into account past Supreme Court rulings, public comment, as well as a major scientific assessment known as the Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Water Assessment. This assessment concluded that "streams, regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters." Naturally, large bodies like lakes and rivers were listed, but the rule also found streams (intermittent and ephemeral ones too), ponds, and other smaller features that have connections to these bigger, "navigable" waterways are indeed federally protected.

Since October 2015, the Clean Water Rule has been stuck in federal appeals court. But just because the rule hasn't been fully implemented, doesn't mean repealing it won't have long-term effects on our drinking water, environment, economy and much more.

According to the EPA, within the continental U.S., about 117 million people, or more than one third of the total U.S. population, get some or all of their drinking water from public drinking water systems that rely at least in part on intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams. These are the same intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams that the Trump administration's EPA wants to no longer protect by revoking the Clean Water Rule. By slashing clean water safeguards, the President and Pruitt are putting the health of hundreds of millions of us at risk.

Not only is our drinking water at risk, but clean water is essential to the economy. Our $887-billion outdoor recreation economy supports 7.6 million American jobs, and it all depends on clean water. In 2011 alone, hunters spent $34 billion, anglers spent $41.8 billion and wildlife watchers spent $55 billion. The money that sportsmen spend in pursuit of their passion supports everything from major manufacturing industries to small businesses in communities across the country.

The streams and wetlands that the CWR protects not only affect the water quality for fish downstream, but also provides nesting habitat for more than 50 percent of North American waterfowl. Wetlands span some 110 million acres across the U.S., providing critical habitat for fish and wildlife as well as aiding in filtration of contaminated runoff and groundwater storage. If we lose these wetlands, we risk losing habitat for fish and wildlife and the economic boost given by those on the quest for the perfect catch.

What happens upstream, effects those downstream. What we do today to protect our water, protects our water tomorrow. It's that simple.

We have until Sept. 27, join us in telling the EPA and Administrator Pruitt that we need to strengthen, not weaken, safeguards for clean water.

By Lauren McCauley

Throwing the weight of his office behind the nation's biggest polluters, President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order directing his administration to dismantle the Obama-era Clean Water Rule.

Surrounded by other foes of environmental regulation, including the newly confirmed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt, the president declared the 2015 law, also known as Waters of the United States, "a horrible, horrible rule. Has sort of a nice name, but everything else is bad."

Passed under former President Barack Obama, the Clean Water Rule extends Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands. As The Hill observed Tuesday, Trump's move is seen as "an opening shot by Trump against the EPA, which was a frequent target of criticism from Republicans for alleged overreach under Obama's tenure."

Though implementation of the rule has been on hold due to ongoing litigation, the move drew outrage from environmental groups, who see it as a necessary provision for the protection of clean water.

The White House has not yet released the full text of the order but it reportedly directs the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to formally consider rolling back the rule, which Pruitt is sure to oblige given that while serving as Oklahoma attorney general he sued the agency he now heads against implementation of the Clean Water Rule.

"Water is life and Trump's dirty water order puts our environment and millions of American lives at risk so that polluters can profit from the destruction of our waterways," said Marissa Knodel, oceans campaigner with the group Friends of the Earth.

"The Clean Water Rule is grounded in science and the law so that our streams and wetlands can keep us healthy and safe, provide habitat for fish and wildlife and beautiful places to recreate," Knodel added. "In contrast, Trump's dirty water order is dangerous and illegal, based on corporate greed and unlawful environmental pollution."

Decrying the order as "reckless" and "a giveaway to polluters," Trip Van Noppen, president of the environmental legal organization Earthjustice, said that Trump is "putting the drinking water of 117 million people at risk, demonstrating that he puts the interests of corporate polluters above the public's health."

Similarly, Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, called the order "a gift to Trump's friends who will pollute and destroy some of the last remaining wetlands in the country. It's deeply troubling—but not surprising—to see Trump move so quickly to gut wetlands protections."

Connecting the president's myriad business interests with his desire to rollback environmental regulations, Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, said it is predictable for the nation's "golfer-in-chief...—who happens to own or brand golf courses in Florida (two), New York (three), New Jersey (two), Virginia (outside Washington, DC), California, North Carolina and Pennsylvania—to aid his industry and himself by moving to repeal the Clean Water Rule."

On the flip side, a number of groups pointed out that dismantling the rule will not be a quick or easy process.

"The Obama administration held more than 400 stakeholder meetings and reviewed over 1,200 scientific studies to develop the 408-page technical report that accompanied the rule," Friend of the Earth noted "and the Trump administration will have to justify any changes with science and the law."

Additionally, Van Noppen vowed that Earthjustice "will use the full strength of our nation's bedrock environmental laws ... to ensure this administration does not dismantle the basic mission of the EPA—the protection of our health and the environment."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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