Report: Clean Water Under Attack
Washington, DC- Nearly fifty years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, the Trump EPA has quietly launched an unprecedented attack on the very policies and regulations that have helped hundreds of millions of Americans access clean water in communities across the country. A new report, commissioned by Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace Napolitano (D-CA), puts a spotlight on the worst actions the Trump administration has implemented or is trying to implement, including:
- STRIPPING PROTECTIONS FOR STREAMS AND WETLANDS
The Trump EPA is actively pushing its new interpretation of the Clean Water Act to replace existing regulations. When it comes to this administration, new does not mean better. Under President Trump, it means a weaker version that also strips out protections for 60 percent of streams and more than 100 million acres of wetlands, which is why President Trump’s version of Clean Water rules has been dubbed the “Dirty Water Rule.”
- GUTTING FUNDING FOR SEWAGE TREATMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES
To stop the flow of raw sewage into our nation’s waters, the Federal government committed in 1972 to help communities of all sizes—from urban to rural—upgrade their wastewater infrastructure. That work continues today, with EPA estimating an additional $270 billion in infrastructure investment over the next 20 years will be required to meet the wastewater needs of communities in the United States. Despite that, the Trump administration proposed massive cuts to the primary water infrastructure investment program—the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program—asking for barely $1 billion for Fiscal Year 2020. Considering the need, that’s just a drop in the bucket.
- BLOCKING A RULE THAT WAS SET TO CUT INDUSTRIAL TOXIC POLLUTION BY 90 PERCENT
In June 2013, the Obama administration EPA proposed limits on the amount of toxic pollutants that power plants can discharge, the first update to power plant water discharge regulations since 1982 and the first ever to focus on toxic metals. Trump’s EPA blocked implementation of the updated requirements.
- FAILING TO ENFORCE THE LAW
The Trump EPA finalized fewer civil enforcement actions in its first year than the previous three administrations during similar time periods. And many of the enforcement actions that the Trump administration has taken credit for were initiated during the Obama administration.
- SHIELDING POLLUTERS FROM PENALTIES
In 2018, the political head of EPA’s enforcement office issued a memo imposing new procedural hurdles on how future enforcement cases could be initiated, including a new requirement that EPA’s political appointees sign off before enforcement action moves forward.
Of course, there are far more attacks on our clean water than just the five listed above.
The Trump administration is also restarting projects already found to be bad for the environment, such as Pebble Mine in Alaska and the Yazoo Pumps in Mississippi; stripping the EPA of its veto authority, an important tool to intervene when a project threatens water quality; shrugging off any action after a chemical storage facility in West Virginia released 10,000 gallons of waste, affecting 300,000 residents; and the list goes on and on. You can read the Committee’s full report—including how House Democrats are trying to hold the Trump administration accountable—at the link found here.