Biden Administration Comes Up Short in Action to Restore National Clean Water Protections - Waterkeeper

Biden Administration Comes Up Short in Action to Restore National Clean Water Protections

By: Waterkeeper Alliance

A large blue lake with an island in the middle of it and trees in the foreground.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

Important Waterways Across the Country Left Unprotected Indefinitely During Administrative Process

Citing to the significant environmental degradation caused by a 2020 Trump administration regulation that eliminated critical protections for many U.S. waterways, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army (the agencies) announced on June 9 that they intend to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act through two separate rulemakings.

The agencies intend to leave the 2020 “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” in effect indefinitely while they engage in administrative rulemaking and stakeholder outreach, even though the agencies acknowledge the regulation is significantly reducing clean water protections across the country, including eliminating protections for nearly every one of over 1,500 streams in New Mexico and Arizona. Waters that have lost protection under the 2020 regulation are being polluted or even destroyed entirely without any review or requirements under the Clean Water Act.

“While we applaud the agencies’ decision to revise the definition and appreciate the agencies recognition of the severe damage caused by the elimination of clean water protections for our nation’s waters, it is imperative that the agencies take urgent action to immediately repeal the current rule because the damage is continuing and expanding every day it remains in place,” said Kelly Hunter Foster, Waterkeeper Alliance Senior Attorney. “Waterkeeper Alliance is committed to continuing our fight to ensure that all of the nation’s waters are protected from dangerous pollution discharges and destruction.” 

In response to the Trump Administration’s elimination of Clean Water Act protections, Environmental Advocates, a California-based public interest law firm, filed suit in the Northern District of California against the agencies on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance; Humboldt Baykeeper; Upper Missouri Waterkeeper; Snake River Waterkeeper; Russian Riverkeeper; Monterey Coastkeeper, a program of the Otter Project; Sound Rivers; Rio Grande Waterkeeper, a program of WildEarth Guardians; Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper; Lake Worth Waterkeeper; Turtle Island Restoration Network; and Ecological Rights Foundation. 

Additional Resources:

Navigable Waters Protection Rule Guarantees Widespread Pollution of Our Nation’s Waters

Impacts of Navigable Waters Protection Rule in the Rio Grande Basin

Impact of Navigable Waters Protection Rule in the Cape Fear Basin (North Carolina)