Mar 31, 2017

Executive Decisions

During his 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald J. Trump made sweeping promises to cut regulations, vowing to eliminate two existing federal regulations for every new one put in place. President Trump seems to be making good on that promise, and the water industry is not immune to the acts of the presidential pen.

On Feb. 16, 2017, Trump signed a bill eliminating the Stream Protection Rule, which prohibited mining companies from disposing of wastewater into nearby waters. Stream protections from mining sources have been in place since the early 1980s, but former President Barack Obama strengthened the rule toward the end of his administration. The Feb. 16 act eliminates the additional water quality protections that went into effect on Jan. 18, 2017.

Then, on Feb. 28, Trump signed an executive order mandating a review of the Clean Water Rule, which the Obama administration implemented in 2015. The rule is one piece of legislation that protects the drinking water sources of 117 million Americans.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will review the definition of “waters of the U.S.” Legally, an executive order alone cannot eliminate the rule. EPA has submitted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to withdraw and replace it. Reactions to this executive order are mixed, and it’s easy to sympathize with all sides of the argument.

Environmental groups believe eliminating the Clean Water Rule will threaten water quality throughout the country, making it vulnerable to pollution and endangering the health of both humans and animals. Others believe the rule is too restrictive, claiming it places an unnecessary burden on industry, agriculture and real estate development.

If these regulations are having as much of an impact on the nation’s economy as the current administration alleges, then it might be time to reevaluate the way things are done. However, this should not be done at the expense of water quality, ecological balance, and human and animal health and safety.

What are your thoughts on the elimination of these regulations? What kind of impacts will they have on your business? Let us know at [email protected]

About the author

Amy McIntosh, managing editor, [email protected]