Trump to unveil vast reworking of clean water protections

Washington: US President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to unveil a plan on Tuesday that would weaken federal clean water rules designed to protect millions of acres of wetlands and streams nationwide from pesticide runoff and other pollutants.

Environmentalists have said the proposal represents a historic assault on wetlands regulation at a moment when Trump has repeatedly voiced a commitment to “crystal-clean water”, The New York Times reported.

The proposed new rule would chip away at safeguards put in place a quarter century ago, during the administration of late President George H.W. Bush, who implemented a policy designed to ensure that no wetlands lost federal protection.

Wetlands play key roles in filtering surface water and protecting against floods, while also providing wildlife habitat.

President Trump is expected to tout his plan as ending a federal land grab that impinged on the rights of farmers, rural landowners and real estate developers to use their property as they see fit.

The clean water rollback is the latest in a series of actions by the Trump administration to weaken or undo major environmental rules, including proposals to weaken regulations on planet-warming emissions from cars, power plants and oil and gas drilling rigs.

The proposed water rule is designed to replace an Obama-era regulation known as Waters of the United States.

The regulation, developed jointly by the Environment Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, was designed to limit pollution in about 60 per cent of the nation’s bodies of water, protecting sources of drinking water for about a third of the US.

It extended existing federal authority to limit pollution in large bodies of water, like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, to smaller bodies that drain into them, such as tributaries, streams and wetlands.

But it became a target for rural landowners since it could have restricted how much pollution from chemical fertilizers and pesticides could seep into water on their property.