Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Federal judge tosses out Trump administration's definition of 'waters of the United States' supported by farmers

"A federal judge Monday threw out a major Trump administration rule that scaled back federal protections for streams, marshes and wetlands across the United States, reversing one of the previous administration’s most significant environmental rollbacks,' Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis report for The Washington Post. "District Judge Rosemary Márquez wrote that Trump officials committed serious errors while writing the regulation, finalized last year, and that leaving it in place could lead to 'serious environmental harm'."

In 2015, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency defined intermittent and seasonal waterways as "waters of the United States" that are subject to regulation under the 1972 Clean Water Act. Business and farming groups said the rule was too vague and restrictive and states were better positioned to regulate their waters. But the EPA's scientific advisory board (most of whom were handpicked by the Trump administration) said the administration's change conflicted with established science and the objectives of the law.

"Márquez, a Barack Obama appointee, noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees permits to dredge and fill waterways under federal jurisdiction, determined that three-quarters of the water bodies it reviewed over a nearly 10-month period did not qualify for federal protection under the new rule," Grandoni and Dennis report. "Federal agencies identified 333 projects that would have required a review under the Obama rule, she added, but did not merit one under the Trump standards."

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the organization is "extremely disappointed," and the ruling "casts uncertainty over farmers and ranchers across the country and threatens the progress they’ve made to responsibly manage water and natural resources."

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