The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) plans to sue the Trump administration over a rollback to a controversial Obama-era water law, arguing leaders failed to consider how it would impact endangered species.
The January policy from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) replaces the already-repealed Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS), crafted under President Obama, which expanded the types of waterways protected by federal law.
President Trump’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule limits that scope, removing protections for smaller bodies of water, even some seasonal ones caused by snowmelt, that environmentalists say must be protected in order to stop pollution from reaching larger sources, including those used for drinking water.
Wetlands, important habitat for a number of species, face reduced protections under the Trump-era rule, as do the intermittent streams that serve as important water sources for protected desert species.
NRDC argues the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to review how those protected animals might fare under the new rule.
“Because the Rule removes Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and streams that endangered and threatened species depend on for habitat and food, there is no question that the rule ‘may affect’ ESA-listed species,” the NRDC writes in its letter.
That impact requires the EPA to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before rolling out nay new regulations, they argue. The letter gives the agency a 60-day timeline to do so before they file suit.
The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The suit touches on two laws that have been rolled back by the Trump administration.
In August of last year the Trump administration finalized a roll back of the Endangered Species Act, limiting the protections afforded by America’s landmark conservation law.
Meanwhile, numerous environmental groups have vowed to sue over Trump’s water rule, arguing it ignores science showing the interconnectivity of water.
Pollution that reaches small water bodies protected only by state and local regulations will eventually enter the larger bodies of water still regulated by the federal government, they argue.
The EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board reviewed the rule when it was first proposed, writing in a draft report that “aspects of the proposed rule are in conflict with established science … and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.”
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