Trump Administration’s New Rule Weakens Toxic Coal Ash Pollution Safeguards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed yesterday the first rule of its two-part rulemaking to weaken the first-ever federal regulations that provide health and environmental safeguards for communities near toxic coal ash waste dumps. The rule was made public this morning.

The new rule:

  • Fails to add boron, a common and dangerous coal ash contaminant, to the list of pollutants that will drive cleanup of groundwater at contaminated sites nationwide.
  • Weakens drinking water protection standards for several hazardous chemicals, namely lead, cobalt, lithium, and molybdenum.
  • Extends compliance deadlines for closing unlined leaking ash ponds and ash ponds within five feet of groundwater and permits hundreds of leaking ponds to continue to operate.
  • Permits state officials to terminate groundwater monitoring.
  • Allows state officials to judge whether sites are following the rules instead of qualified, professional engineers.

All of these changes significantly weaken the protections established in 2015. Every single one of the changes is in response to an industry petition filed with the Trump administration in 2017.

Coal ash is the toxic waste left over from hundreds of coal-burning power plants throughout the United States. For decades, coal ash has been dumped into giant pits, where toxic chemicals seep into water and blow into the air. Coal ash waste is filled with some of some of the deadliest known toxic chemicals, including heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and chromium. The toxics raise the risk for cancer, heart disease, and stroke, and can inflict permanent brain damage on children.

“Today’s rule indicates Wheeler is continuing EPA’s radical drive to remove critical health protections at the behest of industry,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans. “This is the first major rule signed during Andrew Wheeler’s time running the EPA, and his true colors are shining through. Wheeler is ignoring the serious health threats to hundreds of communities at risk from contaminated drinking water.”

“This indefensible gutting of our nation’s first-ever coal ash pollution control rule cements the shameful environmental legacy of the Trump Administration,” said Lisa Hallowell, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “Today’s action opens the door for weakened monitoring and cleanup standards, which means – in no uncertain terms – that the public and the environment on which we all depend will be in harm’s way.”

In October 2015, the first-ever EPA safeguards to protect communities near coal ash dumps went into effect after Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of public interest groups and a Native American tribe, the Moapa Band of Paiutes. The EPA received more than a half-million comments from people supporting the safeguards that the EPA gutted today.

EPA is finalizing this rollback of coal ash protections just as the nation is discovering that nearly all coal ash ponds and landfills are leaking toxic pollutants to groundwater. The EPA’s 2015 coal ash rule required utilities to test the water near their coal ash dumps to make sure hazardous chemicals were not leaking into drinking water sources. Coal ash contains concentrated levels of heavy metals, which are released to water when the ash is dumped into unlined pits. According to recently released industry data, about 95 percent of all the dump sites have contaminated groundwater with toxins like arsenic and boron to levels the EPA has deemed unsafe to drink.

We now know that the coal ash dumps are leaking, but EPA is looking the other way. Requirements to close these leaking dump sites and to clean up poisoned water were set to go into effect later in 2018, but the new rule weakens cleanup standards and pushes closure and cleanup dates to 2020.

“We will not stand by and allow the Trump Administration to give carte blanche to well-funded polluters that threaten the water of thousands of communities across our country with their toxic coal ash,” said Dalal Aboulhosn, Sierra Club’s Deputy Legislative Director for Land and Water. “We’ll use every means we have to beat back this latest attempt to weaken basic clean water protections for working families, farmers, and outdoor businesses – whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened by coal ash every day. Our work will not be completed until every coal ash pit is properly secured and every local resident has access to an online monitor that confirms it.”

“This administration is doing everything it can to give coal a free ride, including dismantling our bare minimum protections,” said Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance. “The corporate dollars saved by weakening the CCR rule will be born by the communities living near coal ash disposal sites — they will pay the costs of contaminated drinking water and polluted waterways.”

“EPA failed for three decades to protect our water from toxic coal plants and now the Trump administration is turning back the clock, doubling down on that failure, and leaving communities in jeopardy,” said Jennifer Peters, Clean Water Action’s National Water Programs Director. “Trump clearly doesn’t care who his administration puts at risk as long as he can give handouts to the corporate polluters who write the checks for re-election campaigns.”

The EPA and Wheeler are caving to pressure from polluters who have fought hard against common-sense pollution protections for coal ash dumps. Over 1,400 coal ash waste dumps are spread across the nation, and at almost every site, the toxic waste has contaminated water sources.

“These changes aren’t going to help Illinois,” said Andrew Rehn of the Prairie Rivers Network. “We need professional engineers, not political appointees or polluters, making decisions about the safety and clean up of coal ash.”

“Decades of regulatory inaction on coal ash disposal has left Indiana with a toxic legacy of serious groundwater contamination – with unsafe levels of arsenic, lead, boron, and radium, among other contaminants — confirmed at fifteen disposal sites in Indiana located on the shores of the White River, the Wabash River, Kankakee River, the Ohio River and Lake Michigan,” said Tim Maloney of Hoosier Environmental Council. “It is simply negligent for the EPA to roll back the long-overdue federal coal ash standards that the agency adopted in 2015, and would result in this pollution being left in place to continue contaminating our waterways and drinking water sources for many years to come.”

Federal protections are critical because the dumps are ticking time bombs. In 2008, the single-largest toxic waste spill in U.S. history happened when a billion gallons of coal ash sludge burst through a dam at the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston plant and covered 300 acres, destroying dozens of homes. In 2014, a portion of a coal ash dump in North Carolina collapsed, fouling 80 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge.

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United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit

Massive Utah Oil Shale Project Threatens Public Health, Water Supply

Conservation groups today formally opposed the Trump administration’s plan to facilitate the first commercial oil shale development in the United States, a massive Utah project that would generate enormous greenhouse gas and deadly ozone pollution in regions already exceeding federal air-pollution standards.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to grant the Estonia-owned Enefit American Oil rights of way to build water, gas, electric and oil-product lines to its 13,000-acre strip-mining “South Project” on private land. In total Enefit has 30,000 acres of private, state and public-land leases in the Uintah Basin. The land contains an estimated 2.6 billion barrels of kerogen oil, and its extraction would require pumping billions of gallons from the Colorado River Basin.

“This plan would turn plateaus into strip mines, pull precious water from our rivers, and cause dangerous climate and ozone pollution. It’s everything the Colorado River Basin doesn’t need,” said John Weisheit, a river guide and the conservation director of Living Rivers. “The BLM should dump this plan and stop wasting time and money by propping up Enefit’s wild speculation.”

“The Colorado River Basin is in crisis thanks to water shortages caused by overallocation, mismanagement, and devastating climate change,” said Daniel E. Estrin, advocacy director at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Enabling development of one of the most carbon and water-intensive dirty fuel projects in the nation in the Upper Colorado River Basin will only exacerbate the decline of our waterways and our climate.”

The South Project would produce 547 million barrels of oil over three decades, spewing more than 200 million tons of greenhouse gas — as much as 50 coal-fired power plants in a year. The amount of energy it takes to mine and process oil shale make it one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels on Earth.

“This project would be a climate and health disaster,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The last thing the Colorado River Basin needs is a new fossil fuel industry warming the climate, sucking rivers dry and choking communities with more deadly ozone pollution.”

The BLM refused to look at the air, climate and other potential damage from the development, claiming that Enefit would build the project even without the rights of way. But in fact Enefit would be financially and technically unable to build the project otherwise. Ignoring the development’s potential environmental damage violates the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Oil shale is a dirty fuel that does not deserve a foothold on our public lands,” said Alex Hardee, associate attorney at Earthjustice.  “BLM’s action will facilitate depletion of the Upper Colorado River watershed, increased smog pollution in the Uinta Basin, the destruction of wildlife habitat, and substantial greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Without BLM’s approval of rights-of-way across public lands, Enefit would need to truck water, natural gas, and processed oil—more than one truck every 80 seconds for 30 years,” said Grand Canyon Trust staff attorney Michael Toll. “Without this federal subsidy, it’s unlikely Enefit could afford to move forward. Why should Americans subsidize an otherwise unfeasible oil shale project, especially when BLM has yet to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act’s mandate to fully analyze and inform the public of the impacts of Enefit’s proposed project?”

The project would double oil production in the Uintah Basin and refine that oil near Salt Lake City, worsening ozone pollution in both areas. In May the Environmental Protection Agency determined that air pollution in the Uintah Basin and Salt Lake City exceeds federal health standards.

“The Uinta Basin suffers from some of the worst air quality in the nation,” said Landon Newell, a staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “BLM’s kowtowing to the fossil fuel industry is largely to blame for the current crisis and its approval of this energy intensive, environmentally destructive, boondoggle of a project will only worsen the problem.”

“A pollution crisis will inevitably lead to a public health crisis, and there is preliminary evidence that one may already be occurring with high rates of perinatal deaths in the Uinta Basin,” said Dr. Brian Moench, board president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “The health risks go well beyond ozone and particulate pollution. Although VOCs are not addressed by EPA national standards, they likely represent the greatest toxicity to the population, especially for infants and pregnant mothers.”

“The last thing we need is an Estonian oil company using Americans’ public land to prop up destructive oil shale mining. Yet the Trump Administration’s BLM failed to give this dirty energy subsidy the hard look it demands,” said Jacob Eisenberg of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Enefit is a company with an extraordinarily dubious environmental track record; NRDC opposes its proposal for the harm it could do to our natural heritage, climate, and public health.”

Enefit’s oil-shale operation would draw more than 100 billion gallons of water from the Colorado River Basin over the next three decades, threatening endangered fish recovery and exacerbating flow declines in the Green and Colorado rivers downstream. The project would also generate more than 450 million cubic feet of waste rock every year, much of it toxic.   

“Now is the time to accelerate the transition to clean energy, not to sacrifice our water, air quality, and climate for an investment in one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet,” said Sierra Club beyond dirty fuels associate director Cathy Collentine. “The Sierra Club and our allies will continue to fight to ensure that this dirty mining project never goes forward.”

The BLM is moving forward with this development even as the Colorado River Basin suffers climate-driven river flow declines, record droughts and wildfires.

**Photo by jim_mckenzie

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Federal Appeals Court Overturns Bayou Bridge Pipeline Injunction

Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned an order halting construction of the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline in the Atchafalaya River Basin. The ruling reverses U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick’s February order granting a preliminary injunction to halt construction on the portion of the Bayou Bridge pipeline that crosses the Atchafalaya Basin, a National Heritage Area famous for Louisiana crawfish production.

The decision allows construction of the pipeline to proceed in the Atchafalaya Basin while the underlying case is decided on the merits. Today’s 2-1 ruling follows an earlier 2-1 ruling from the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans, which temporarily lifted the injunction while the appeal proceeded. Immediately following this decision in March, Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC, a partnership between Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, aggressively resumed cutting down trees in the Basin to clear the 162-mile pipeline route despite high water conditions.

“We are disappointed in the decision, but the fight to protect the Atchafalaya from risky and harmful crude oil pipelines will continue,” said Jan Hasselman with Earthjustice, who is lead counsel for the crawfishing and conservation groups who brought the lawsuit. “It is time for the oil industry to stop treating this special place — and the many people who rely on it for their livelihoods — as a national sacrifice area.”

Much of today’s 22-page ruling defended the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to mitigate the destruction of heritage cypress tupelo swamps during the pipeline’s construction with young trees of another type — a decision that ultimately fails to account for lost wetland function in the Basin, including flood protection benefits, as argued by the plaintiffs. In addition, the majority (Judges Edith Hollan Jones and James E. Graves, Jr.), also found that the pipeline project would have “no incremental impact” on the Atchafalaya Basin.

In stark contrast, the dissent by Judge Thomas Morrow Reavley found that the Corps’ rationale was “conspicuously silent” regarding the adequacy of the out-of-kind mitigation. In addition, Judge Reavley described Corps’ determination as “detailing the hundreds of acres of shredded wetlands[.]”

The District Court still must consider the merits of the underlying lawsuit filed by several groups — Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association – West, Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice — in January 2018. In February, Judge Dick granted the preliminary injunction halting construction in the Atchafalaya Basin, finding that construction of the pipeline would cause grave ecological damage to the Atchafalaya Basin. Currently, Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC, estimates that construction will be completed by October, which will likely be before a final decision in the lawsuit has been reached. If the court eventually finds in favor of the plaintiffs, shutting down the pipeline could be an option.

“There is a major legal cloud over this project, and additional construction before the lawsuit is completed is a risky gamble for this company,” said Cyn Sarthou, executive director of Gulf Restoration Network.  “This injunction fight is just the first round of this fight, and we’re just getting started.”

Beyond the irreparable harm caused by pipeline construction in the Basin, opponents also have raised concerns over the impacts that construction will have on the Basin’s ability to manage floodwaters.

“With little to no enforcement from the Corps, pipeline companies have already devastated our coast and our Atchafalaya Basin, destroying some of the most amazing ecosystems on Earth, putting millions of people at greater risk of flooding and making countless coastal communities uninhabitable by humans,” said Dean Wilson, executive director of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper. “We will continue to fight for our children’s future and to stop and reverse decades of unrestricted destruction.”

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision today has implications beyond Bayou Bridge,” said Larissa Liebmann, Staff Attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance. “It is fundamentally unfair and illogical for courts to allow pipeline construction, and the destruction that comes with it, to go forward without first looking at whether the pipeline was properly permitted in the first place.”

The proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline project would connect the controversial Dakota Access pipeline to refineries and export terminals in St. James, Louisiana, and traverse 11 parishes and more than 700 bodies of water.

“The Bayou Bridge pipeline would pose an unacceptable risk to the wetlands, water, and communities along its route, and should never be built,” said Julie Rosenzweig, director of the Sierra Club Delta Chapter. “Allowing a company with as egregious a track record as Energy Transfer Partners to move forward with construction in spite of ongoing legal challenges is unconscionable. We will continue making our case against this dirty, dangerous pipeline.”

Read the opinion.

**Photo by courtesy of Julie Dermansky

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit

Waterkeeper Alliance Responds to Pruitt Resignation

In response to the resignation of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi has issued the following statement:

“Amidst the many scandalous actors of the Trump administration, there has been none more dangerous to the American public’s health than Scott Pruitt. Aside from his ethics violations, Pruitt’s devotion to polluters has been at the expense of Americans’ health and welfare and has far more devastating impact on current and future generations. We’re glad to see him go.”

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit

Tar Sands Oil Spilling Into Little Rock River Following Doon Trail Derailment

doon train derailment oil spill

Following the derailment of 32 train cars carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Stroud, Oklahoma for ConocoPhillips, Quad Cities Waterkeeper and LightHawk conducted an aerial investigation of the oil spill in Doon, Iowa. An estimated 230,000 gallons of oil spilled into the flooded waters of the Little Rock River.

Images from the investigation can be found here.

This accident highlights the continued threat of crumbling U.S. railroad infrastructure highlighted in Waterkeeper Alliance’s 2015 Deadly Crossings report. Oil trains, deteriorating railways, and inadequate federal oversight of rail bridges threaten the safety of millions of Americans, our waterways, and the environment. Since 2008, oil train traffic has increased over 5,000 percent along rail routes leading from production fields in central Canada, the Great Plains, and the Rockies to refineries and crude oil hubs along our nation’s coasts. There has also been a surge in the number of oil train derailments, spills, fires, and explosions. More oil was spilled from trains in 2013 than in the previous 40 years combined.

“We have been protesting tar sands in our community for years. The spill that has happened in Doon is exactly what we fear will occur with the continued transport of these toxic materials through our communities,” said Art Norris, Quad Cities Waterkeeper. “These images reveal the dangerous impacts to our waterways from crude oil transportation via unsafe railways and hastily permitted pipelines.”

“The Doon train derailment shows, yet again, that the extraction, transport, and combustion of fossil fuels are at the root of so many of the problems we face, from water pollution to climate change,” said Daniel Estrin, Advocacy Director and General Counsel of Waterkeeper Alliance. “We must prioritize a faster transition to clean renewable energy.”

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit

Waterkeeper Alliance Responds to Passage of SB711

sb711 environmental justice rene miller

In response to the North Carolina General Assembly once again voting to prioritize polluters over people by overriding Governor Cooper’s veto and enacting the NC Farm Act, SB711, Waterkeeper Alliance Campaign Manager and Staff Attorney Will Hendrick has issued the following statement:

“Under SB711, it is difficult to see how any injured neighbor will be able to sue an operation to end a nuisance or recover damages for real and lasting injuries, like water contamination and health problems. Governor Cooper, to his credit, once again objected to this attack on property rights and environmental protection. Unfortunately, too many elected to the General Assembly disagreed with that assessment, as they once again acted to strip legal rights and remedies from North Carolinians to benefit a single industry: industrial animal agriculture.

Waterkeeper Alliance will continue fighting legislative efforts to decrease protections for communities and the environment. We are proud to do so with the help of Waterkeeper groups from the mountains to the coast of North Carolina, and will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with affected community members, spurred to action by our commitment to defend North Carolina’s natural resources.”

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit

New Analysis Finds Groundwater Contamination from Oklahoma’s Coal Ash Dumps as Pruitt Faces Deadline to Decide Whether to Let State Handle Oversight

Other States Plan to Ask Pruitt to Transfer Oversight of Toxic Coal Ash Dumps

As EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faces the deadline of tomorrow to decide whether to grant the request by his home state of Oklahoma to exempt coal ash dumps from federal oversight, public advocates warn that would be a terrible mistake, just as it would be for the other states that want the same exemption.

New analysis by Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice reveals that all of the dumps containing “coal ash” waste generated by Oklahoma’s coal-fired power plants that tested nearby groundwater found toxic contamination.

The chemicals detected include toxic heavy metals and other substances linked to cancer, neurological damage, and environmental damage. Arsenic, Boron, Lithium, Molybdenum, and Radium were among the contaminants found. According to the new analysis, the groundwater fails to meet levels EPA deems safe for drinking water at every coal ash dump in the state that performed the required testing.

Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal, and too often polluters dispose of it irresponsibly, such as by dumping it in unlined ponds or landfills.

“A takeover by Oklahoma means that a bad situation will get a lot worse,” said Lisa Evans, a former EPA official who is an attorney at Earthjustice and one of the country’s leading experts on coal ash pollution. “States are beginning to line up at Scott Pruitt’s door to shield their toxic coal ash dumps from public health protections. Oklahoma is likely the first domino to fall in a series of states. Oklahoma is an example of how not to handle coal ash pollution.”

The following coal ash pollutants were found in groundwater at coal ash dumps at these four Oklahoma sites:

  • American Electric Power’s Northeastern coal plant in Oologah – Boron, Cobalt, Lithium, Molybdenum, Radium, Selenium and Sulfate
  • Grand River Dam Authority’s Grand River Energy Center coal plant near Choteau – Arsenic and Sulfate
  • Western Farmers’ Electric Cooperative’s Hugo coal plant in Choctaw County – Boron, Lithium, Molybdenum, Sulfate, Radium, and Thallium
  • The Big Fork Ranch coal ash landfill in Noble County – Boron and Sulfate

“It’s like asking for a promotion after you have failed every performance review you have ever taken,” said Johnson Bridgewater, Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of Sierra Club who testified at the EPA’s hearing on coal ash pollution. “The test results are staggering. The serious water contamination from coal plants that happened right under the State of Oklahoma’s nose is proof that they are not willing to protect their residents from toxic coal ash pollution. Sadly, we have 54 lakes in Oklahoma officially polluted and posted as contaminated with mercury–a direct result of the byproducts of burning coal in our state. Not to mention the poor citizens of Bokoshe, Oklahoma, who can attest to how their waters have been polluted by coal ash.”

“This rampant toxic pollution is proof that state officials are not holding coal plant operators accountable to the people of Oklahoma. These coal plant operators are flouting the state and federal rules, and the politicians are letting them get away with it,” said Earl Hatley, Grand Riverkeeper and LEAD Agency, Inc., who testified at Oklahoma’s hearing against their inadequate state plan, as well as at an EPA hearing near Washington, D.C., on federal coal ash rules.

If approved by Scott Pruitt and the EPA, Oklahoma’s rules would allow coal ash landfills and impoundments (ponds) to have permits that last “for life,” meaning they will not be revisited periodically to ensure they are not endangering nearby communities or the environment. In contrast, permits for hazardous waste landfills, air pollution, and wastewater discharges must be renewed at regular intervals–and for good reason. Moreover, under the state’s program, many key decisions about how coal ash dumps are operated would be made behind closed doors, depriving the public of the opportunity to weigh in on whether operators are doing enough to protect Oklahoma communities and waters.

“We are just now getting a glimpse at how widespread the coal ash contamination is in Oklahoma,” said Abel Russ of the Environmental Integrity Project. “The state would like to shove all of that evidence back under the rug, and that would be a big mistake. There is a very basic principle at work here: Oklahoma citizens have a right to know what’s being done to their natural resources. And what about future generations? Dealing with this mess now will be much cheaper than waiting another thirty years when the problem will be much worse.”

Other states that are reportedly planning to apply for an exemption from federal rules on coal ash include Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, and Indiana.

“The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality publicly admitted that they want state rules that block citizens from suing polluters for contaminating the waters they drink, fish in, and swim in,” said Larissa Liebmann, Staff Attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Oklahoma state officials want to keep their citizens in the dark about what toxic chemicals are being dumped by coal plants. We’re not going to let that happen.”.

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit

Advocacy Groups Call on Governor Cooper to Veto SB711

sb711 environmental justice rene miller

Following the North Carolina General Assembly’s rushed passage of SB 711, which would strip rural North Carolinians of their constitutional right to seek justice in the courts against those who pollute their air and water, advocacy groups Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Public Justice, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, and Waterkeeper Alliance issued the following statement:

“We call on Governor Cooper to continue his record as a champion of all North Carolinians – and especially those who call the rural communities of our state home – by standing with our state’s citizens and against those contaminating our air and water, by vetoing SB 711. The coalition of legislators who have tenaciously and heroically fought this dangerous bill and stood with families and communities as they take on these polluters, must also stand with the Governor and sustain the veto.

“The proponents of this bill have tried to mislead politicians and the public into thinking it is a referendum on support for North Carolina’s agricultural industry. That’s not true. The people of North Carolina have long welcomed, worked for and promoted safe and responsible agriculture in our state. This bill is not about pulling back the welcome mat for those who are good neighbors; it is about providing legal immunity to those who are robbing their neighbors of the right to enjoy the open air, clean water and beautiful land that we value in North Carolina. We shouldn’t be rewarding those who are polluting our state and harming our neighbors. We should be looking out for North Carolina workers and families who call this state home. By vetoing this bill, Governor Cooper can send a strong message that, while North Carolina remains open for business, it also remains a place where quality of life and access to abundant and clean water and air is a priority. We must not allow irresponsible actors to taint our natural resources or our state’s reputation as a place that puts its people first. These are values all North Carolinians hold dear.”

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration Push to Slash Protections for Waterways, Wetlands

Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging two regulations that weaken Clean Water Act protections for rivers, streams, wetlands, and other waterways, including a Trump administration decision to delay the 2015 Clean Water Rule for two years.

Today’s lawsuit also challenges portions of the 2015 rule that arbitrarily removed clean-water safeguards in place since the 1970s for certain types of critically important waterways. By defining the term “waters of the United States,” or what’s known as WOTUS, the 2015 rule prescribes what kinds of waterways and water bodies are protected under the Act.

The delay of the 2015 rule is the first of several anticipated actions from the Scott Pruitt-led Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13778, which called for slashing critical water-quality protections.

“It is obvious that EPA and the Corps are attempting to reduce or eliminate Clean Water Act protections for the majority of our nation’s waters in violation of our most basic procedural and environmental laws,” said Kelly Hunter Foster, a Waterkeeper Alliance senior attorney. “These agencies should be working to protect the public and restore our nation’s waters — not engaging in an elaborate multi-year plot to legalize more water pollution.”

Among the waters now facing destruction or increased harm from pollution are wetlands that provide vital habitat for hundreds of imperiled species. They include vernal pools in California, boggy “pocosins” important to water quality and flood control on the East Coast, and “prairie potholes” in the upper Midwest that help support about one-third of North America’s water birds, including the last migratory flock of whooping cranes in the world.

“Slashing protections for these crucial wetlands will accelerate the extinction of some our most vulnerable plants and animals,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Every day the Trump administration blocks these protections is another day polluters are free to degrade waterways essential to human health, imperiled species and endangered birds like whooping cranes.” 

Today’s lawsuit was prompted by the failure of the EPA and Army Corps to comply with federal protections for a variety of waterways and wetlands under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act.

“This is yet another gift by the Trump administration to big agribusiness operations, allowing more agricultural pollutants on our food and in our environment,” said Adam Keats, a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “The EPA and the Army Corps should be working to strengthen, not gut, the laws that keep industrial agricultural pollution in check.”

These unprecedented actions by the EPA are contrary to clear scientific evidence demonstrating the importance of these waterways to public health, wildlife, and environmental sustainability.

“Deregulation kills! The Trump administration’s newest attack on clean water threatens human health and wildlife survival, especially species like the critically endangered coho salmon, which spawns in local creeks and streams,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “These are the same creeks and streams where our children play and learn about nature, and to allow them to be polluted is absolutely shameful.”

The parties to the suit are the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Humboldt Baykeeper (a program of the Northcoast Environmental Center), Russian Riverkeeper, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, Snake River Waterkeeper, and Monterey Coastkeeper (a program of the Otter Project).

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the Earthrise Law Center, the environmental legal clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School.

Feature image: California vernal pools photo by Joanna Gilkeson, USFWS. This image is available for media use.

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit

Sperry Partners with Waterkeeper Alliance in Ongoing Effort to Support Global Sustainable Water Program

WOTUS water transfers rule campaigns waterkeeper alliance epa

Sperry, the American footwear and lifestyle brand, announces today its ongoing partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance in support of a multi-faceted water sustainable program. The non-profit organization serves to strengthen and grow a global network of grassroots leaders while preserving and protecting everyone’s right to clean water worldwide.

Waterkeeper Alliance is the largest and fastest growing non-profit solely focused on clean water, Sperry is honored to be a partner working on a global initiative that promotes the idea of clean water for all,” says Thomas Kennedy, President of Sperry. “As a brand that was born on the water, this is a cause that is completely aligned with our core values.”

Led by American environmental attorney, activist and clean technology entrepreneur Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the Waterkeeper movement was founded in 1966 by a band of blue-collar fishermen on New York’s Hudson River because industrial polluters were destroying their way of life. Their tough, grassroots brand of environmental activism sparked the Hudson’s miraculous recovery and inspired others to launch Waterkeeper groups around the world. In previous initiatives, Sperry has worked with Waterkeeper Alliance on the Bionic range, and will continue to build on the partnership going forward covering the 2.5 million square miles of water that are protected through various campaigns such as Clean & Safe Energy, Pure Farms, Pure Waters, Clean Water Defense and through their Ocean Plastic Recovery Initiative.

“I’m proud of Waterkeeper’s partnership with Sperry. I’m grateful for Sperry’s support for our work with local communities to protect and restore waterways around the globe,” says Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Senior Attorney and President of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Both of our teams are committed to building a world where all waterways are drinkable, fishable and swimmable.”

For more information and upcoming news, visit and follow the brand on the below social channels:

Instagram: @sperry
Facebook: @sperry
Twitter: @sperrytopsider

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit