"Trump administration freezes Obama Rule on water protection" PBS NewsHour 2/28/2017
SUMMARY: EPA chief Scott Pruitt recently promised an aggressive rollback of regulations that had been put in place by former President Obama, and President Trump made good on Pruitt's promise with an order to dismantle a rule about smaller bodies of water. William Brangham learns more from Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post about what today's move means for water regulations.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour): It's called the Waters of the United States rule, and it has to do with which smaller bodies of water, like streams and wetlands, should be regulated and protected by the federal government under the Clean Water Act.
That question has been litigated in court battles for years.
And so for more on what today's move is all about, I'm joined now by Juliet Eilperin, who's been reporting on this for The Washington Post.
Juliet, welcome back to the NewsHour.
Before we get into the rollback, can you tell me what this rule is really about? And this was, as I understand it, a very big part of Obama's environmental legacy.
JULIET EILPERIN, The Washington Post: This is a 2015 rule, which has been subject to litigation, which tries to clarify what, as you alluded to, has been really a 30-year battle over what jurisdiction the Federal Government has over these smaller streams, some are intermittent, some wetlands, and essentially what the federal government can tell Americans, including farmers, ranchers, homebuilders, what they can and cannot do, even when it has to do with private property, because it has implications for smaller water bodies that are crucial water supply for larger water bodies across the United States.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, is this about a rule that is trying to protect these waters from pollution? Is that the issue here?
JULIET EILPERIN: Partially, it's pollution, but what it pertains to many often is whether they can be drained or filled in. All of those actions, which are in some ways the inevitable product of these operations that happen in various different sectors of the economy, have implications for whether that water will then flow into larger water bodies.
And so it is usually a restriction on whether you can drain something or dig up something, as opposed to, for example, just dumping in pollutants into a small water body, although, technically, it could apply to that as well.