The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning a new attack on the Clean Water Act that will strip federal protections for 60-90 percent of U.S. waterways.
This new water rule could heavily benefit the oil and gas transport companies as it will ease restrictions on how polluting industries are allowed to do business.
The new rule states that streams don’t run year-round and many wetlands will no longer be subject to the Clean Water Act. According to the Intercept, “As a result, a wide range of industries — including agriculture, mining, waste management, chemical companies, real estate development, and road construction — will be free to pollute, reroute, and pave over these waterways as they see fit.”
“For some parts of the country, it’s a complete wiping away of the Clean Water Act,” says Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
What’s more, with this new rule pipeline construction projects that are “currently required to undergo months, or even years, of scrutiny from water experts in order to minimize their environmental impact will be allowed to speed forward,” according to The Intercept.
Companies that should be submitting applications for water permits, such as ONEOK who is building a pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas, seem to be holding back in anticipation as the new rule could allow them to bypass the permits altogether. As the Intercept states, “The Trump administration rollback of water regulations will allow ONEOK and other companies involved in the energy pipeline boom now underway to simply bulldoze through waterways that are currently protected without any environmental scrutiny at all.”
The new rule, which will officially be released next week, is anticipated to “exempt seasonal waterways and wetlands that are not connected by surface water to permanent water bodies from regulation,” allowing for pipeline projects to advance more quickly with fewer environmental protection obstacles.
“The exact number of wetlands and waterways losing federal protections won’t be known until the full, detailed proposal is released,” E&E News reported, after obtaining a copy of EPA talking points on the new rule.
The Trump administration has been attacking the Clean Water Act and the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule since coming into power. Trump’s businesses could possibly profit from any weakening of either set of regulations. In the past year, the administration has specifically been attempting to reinterpret the WOTUS rule in a way that lets oil and gas companies, real estate developers, and golf course owners to freely pollute nearby waterways.