You might want to tighten those nose clips and buy some earplugs: earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled on a long running legal dispute about which streams and wetlands the Clean Water Act actually protects from pollution – and it’s not good. Their decision, which ignored even the most basic science, stripped protections for an estimated 50% of streams and 70% of wetlands that had been protected since the 1970s.
Enacted in 1972, the Clean Water Act established a nationwide approach to improving the quality of our nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, and other water bodies. One of its features is that it prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source into “navigable waters” unless otherwise authorized under the Act. “Navigable waters” are defined in the Act as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.”
Earlier this week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new federal rule that eliminates protection for a majority of our nation’s wetlands and estimated totals of well over a million miles of streams. The rule aligns the law with a recent Supreme Court Case that limited the kinds of wetlands and streams that can be covered by the Clean Water Act, known as Waters of the United States, or WOTUS. American Whitewater joined an amicus brief in that pivotal court case, advocating for the science-based protection of these streams and wetlands, but the Supreme Court ruled against us.
This week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency released new rules for the regulation of many of the wetlands, streams and seasonal creeks throughout the United States in order to ensure conformity with a recent US Supreme Court decision on the Clean Water Act.