A rule that protects the drinking water of one in three Americans might soon be history under the Trump Administration. Passed in 2015, the Clean Water Rule clarifies which rivers, streams, lakes, and marshes are under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Despite its ability to provide clean drinking water to Americans and hold polluters accountable, the rule has received much opposition. Otherwise known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule, protecting two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands didn’t sit well with many industries, including fossil fuel makers, manufacturers, and agribusiness.

Condemned by Republican lawmakers as an overreach of a federal agency, it seems the rule might soon be history, putting the safety of the people it was designed to protect at risk.

Redefining the Clean Water Rule

Under the direction of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s appointed EPA administrator, the EPA, Department of Army, and Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a rule to rescind the Clean Water Rule and recodify the exact same text that existed prior to the 2015 change.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said Pruitt in a statement. “This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

History of the Clean Water Act

Instated in its current form in 1972, the Clean Water Act was designed to control water pollution. The law created a basic structure for pollution regulation in U.S. waters, giving the EPA authority to execute necessary programs to promote the goal, among other measures.

In the more than four decades since the Clean Water Act was established, multiple amendments have been employed to address changing needs. However, if passed, rescinding the Clean Water Rule would be the first time measures have actively been taken to move backwards.

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