The Trump Administration is expected to finalize a plan on Thursday to remove Obama era environmental protections for streams and wetlands, and cut pollution controls in place since the 1972 Clean Water Act.
Catherine Kling is an environmental economist at Cornell University and a faculty director at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. She has argued that states can do more to regulate agriculture and prevent runoff pollution, and says that the Trump Administration’s rollback will have environmental costs that will impact large swathes of Americans.
“The goal of the Trump Administration rollback is to reduce the obligations of farmers, ranchers, and other landowners in their requirements to protect water quality in the U.S. This will lower regulatory costs to that group of Americans. But there are costs to the environment that will be borne by other Americans.
“These environmental costs include the loss of healthy drinking water to millions of Americans who rely on private wells; increased occurrence and severity of harmful algal bloom outbreaks that sicken swimmers, kill pets and wildlife; reduced usage and enjoyment of outdoor recreation areas; lost habitat for wildlife and flora; and declining property values of homeowners and businesses located near impacted lakes and rivers.”
Amanda Rodewald, senior director of conservation science with Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, served as the chair of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board during a review of the science underpinning the Waters of the United States rule. She says the Trump Administration’s rollback is “not consistent with the science.”
“Under the new rule, over half of wetlands and almost one-fifth of streams nationwide – including almost 40% of streams in the Arid West – will no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act. The rule is not consistent with the science and it contradicts previous interpretations of the CWA that have received bipartisan support since the act was first signed into law by President Nixon.
“The proposed rule will erode protection for thousands of kilometers of ephemeral and headwater streams and 16.3 million acres of wetlands in the U.S. In doing so, the rule increases the vulnerability of already-sensitive waters that provide critical ecosystem services, such as protecting water quality, recharging aquifers, transporting organic material, safeguarding habitats for endangered species, and supporting recreational and commercial endeavors.”