The Trump administration on Tuesday launched its repeal plans for the Clean Water Rule, sending ripples of concern throughout the conservation community about protecting drinking water, in North Carolina and across the country. However, insiders say that’s just part of the story.
The Environmental Protection Agency plans a second effort in the coming months to limit the waterways protected under the larger Clean Water Act. John Rumpler, clean-water program director for Environment North Carolina, said the way the Clean Water Rule repeal was introduced in the U.S. House means it won’t go through the typical comment and review periods. He said citizens should be on alert.
“This provision in the bill we saw this week would exempt the rollback of the Clean Water Rule from the Administrative Procedures Act – the basic, core procedural protections that the American people have to ensure that the government is accountable to the people,” he said.
A public-comment period of just 30 days is expected.
Finalized in 2015 with widespread public and scientific support, the Clean Water Rule restored federal protections to more than half of North Carolina’s streams, which feed waterways such as Dan River and help provide drinking water to 4.7 million North Carolinians. The rule also protects wetlands, which help filter out pollutants and provide wildlife habitat. North Carolina’s waterways also contribute to the state’s economy through recreation.
Rumpler said it’s important to remember that the original Clean Water Act legislation had support from both parties.
“Which waterways in North Carolina are going to be protected by our federal bedrock environmental law, the Clean Water Act, that was passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in Congress in 1972? And I think that most folks in North Carolina and across the country believe the Clean Water Act should protect all of our waterways,” he said.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said his agency is “taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.”