RE: Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0203: Comments on Definition of “Waters of the United States”—Recodification of Preexisting Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 83, No. 134 (July 12, 2018)
Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler and Assistant Secretary James:
On behalf of the undersigned 187 organizations and our millions of members and supporters across the country, we oppose the Trump administration’s attempt to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule and urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Army Corps”) to withdraw this proposed repeal. We also oppose the agencies’ plan to permanently weaken commonsense protections for streams and wetlands through a new rulemaking. Repealing the 2015 Clean Water Rule and replacing it with a rule that limits which streams and wetlands are covered under the Clean Water Act’s pollution prevention programs is an assault on water quality and public health.
The administration’s latest attempt to justify its proposal to repeal the Clean Water Rule lacks merit. The new legal theories forwarded by the administration in this supplemental notice fail to justify repealing the Rule and ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence that protecting small streams and wetlands is essential to ensuring water quality in downstream rivers and larger water bodies. The 2015 Clean Water Rule creates more certainty, not less, regarding which water resources are federally protected, and is legally and scientifically sound. It was for these reasons, and others, that the EPA and Army Corps received more than 685,000 comments on their first attempt to repeal the Clean Water Rule (dated July 27, 2017) and more than half a million of those comments were in strong opposition to this plan.
The current administration’s assertion that the previous administration relied too much on science when crafting the 2015 Clean Water Rule is absurd. Commonsense water policy decisions must be based on the best available science if we are ever to achieve the Clean Water Act’s water quality goals. Headwater, seasonal, and rain-dependent streams contribute to the drinking water sources for more than 117 million people in the United States. Wetlands filter pollutants and can buffer communities from flooding. These rivers, wetlands, lakes, and streams provide recreational opportunities for millions powering a robust outdoor economy. In its latest proposal, the administration would abandon the agencies’ prior scientific and economic rationale for protecting streams and wetlands without offering any scientific evidence to support its plan to permanently repeal effective Clean Water Act protections for these water resources. Science tells us that we should be doing more, not less, to protect our nation’s water resources.
Not only is the administration’s plan to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule unjustified by science or law, it disregards more than 800,000 comments submitted in support of the 2015 Rule. The agencies should withdraw the proposed repeal immediately. Moreover, any potential revisions to the 2015 Clean Water Rule must bring us closer to achieving the goals of the Clean Water Act, and must be carried out in a transparent rulemaking process that is science-based and legally sound, and that provides a meaningful opportunity for all stakeholders to participate.