WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, responded to the announcement today of a new water rule by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) R.D. James. The new replacement rule will gut Obama-era regulations that define the waters of the United States (WOTUS) — the rivers, streams and wetlands that fed into the drinking water supply of 1 in 3 Americans.
“Clean, safe water is a right of every person in this country. But the Trump administration does not seem to prioritize clean water or public health. Time and again they have shown their sole priority to be protecting polluters at the expense of evidence-based public policies that were built on years-long scientific research.”
Senator Cardin has long urged the Trump administration to protect the Clean Water Rule and protect America’s clean drinking water. In April 2019, he led colleagues in a letter to Wheeler and James during the formal rulemaking comment period urging them to abandon the dangerous proposal.
“Continued success of the Clean Water Act requires a clear and scientifically sound definition for determining which bodies of water are protected, while protecting those waters that influence the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters—the goal at the heart of the Act. However, the final rule provides neither the certainty requested by our constituents, nor the clean and healthy waters upon which we all depend. Instead, this rewrite makes it nearly impossible for stakeholders and regulators to easily and consistently define perennial, intermittent and ephemeral streams. Far from fulfilling the President’s promise to create a nationally consistent rule, this rule injects ambiguity into the law at the expense of our decades of progress in cleaning up our waters.
“For Maryland and the Chesapeake region, the Trump administration’s latest rollback of federal clean water regulations undermines the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort by eliminating federal protections for thousands of acres of wetlands and some headwater streams. Under the Trump administration’s new water rule, isolated wetlands not connected by surface waters to navigable waterways in an average year will be denied federal protections. This would make them more vulnerable to pollution, and make it harder for state and local governments, farmers, nonprofits and businesses to achieve their nutrient and sediment reduction goals. Also exposed would be streams that flow only after rain or snowmelt, called ‘ephemeral’ streams, that play a critical role in supplying clean drinking water and as tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. In the long run, this rollback will cost American taxpayers money for increased health costs and other harmful effects of increased pollution in our waterways.”