SOURCE: The Intercept

DATE: December 7, 2018

SNIP: A new water rule will greatly reduce federal water protections, imperiling drinking water, endangered species, and ecosystems across the country. According to the rule that the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release next week — some details of which were leaked Thursday — streams that are dependent on rainfall and wetlands not physically connected to year-round waterways will no longer be covered by the Clean Water Act.

As a result of the change, an estimated 60-90 percent of U.S. waterways could lose federal protections that currently shield them from pollution and development, according to Kyla Bennett, director of science policy at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Alaska and the arid west will be hit particularly hard by the new rule, which will be subject to a comment period before it is finalized.

Environmentalists are bracing for what they predict will be disastrous consequences for our nation’s waterways. “For some parts of the country, it’s a complete wiping away of the Clean Water Act,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

By removing water quality standards and permitting requirements, the rule will open these streams, rivers, and wetlands to being paved over, filled in, or polluted. The result, environmentalists say, may take us back to the days of river fires. “You’ll be able to dump as much crap into them as you want,” Hartl said of our nation’s waterways. “Anyone will be free to destroy them as they see fit.”

Even before the new rule goes into effect, more than half of the waterways in the U.S. are officially impaired, according to EPA data. The majority of the more than 1 million miles of rivers and streams that have been assessed violate federal water quality standards — as do more than 70 percent of ponds, lakes, and reservoirs, and almost 80 percent of the bays and estuaries that have been assessed. Of the 4,460 miles of monitored Great Lakes shoreline, 98 percent is contaminated, as are virtually all the Great Lakes’ open waters, which now contain PCBs, dioxin, mercury, pesticides, and other pollutants.