The Unclean Water Rule

by Evan Isaacson | July 13, 2017

This post builds from an interview with the author for WYPR's The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton, a portion of which aired on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.

One question I've been asked a number of times over the last several years is, "What does the Clean Water Rule mean for the Chesapeake Bay?" With EPA's recent proposal to repeal the rule, I'm once again hearing questions and speculation about what this repeal will mean for the Bay watershed.

I think the average person is rightly confused about the Clean Water Rule, sometimes called the Waters of the United States rule, and why they hear so much about it. Whereas most disputes involving environmental law are about providing the right standard or level of protection, the Clean Water Rule was simply about drawing clear boundary lines around waters that are and are not protected by the Clean Water Act in order to make the process of identifying these waters more predictable and consistent with the latest science. And whereas some rules can be game changers (e.g. the Clean Power Plan), completely altering the way pollution is regulated, the Clean Water Rule wasn't one of them – in fact, the rule only came about as a way to restore things to where they were during most of the George W. Bush years.

When the Clean Water Rule was first released in 2015, the reaction from industry lobbyists and their ...

Repeal First, Explain Later: The Trump Administration and the Clean Water Rule

by Dave Owen | June 28, 2017
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Dave Owen. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers just released a proposal to repeal the Clean Water Rule and to return to previous regulations. The Clean Water Rule (also known as the WOTUS Rule) would have clarified the scope of federal regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. It was one of the Obama administration's signature environmental initiatives, and it was one of candidate and then President Trump's signature targets. So the ...

Myths, Realities, and the Clean Water Rule Controversy

by Dave Owen | March 06, 2017
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Dave Owen. Last Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order directing EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to begin work on a new rule defining the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The rule, if and when it is finalized, would replace the "Clean Water Rule" released by EPA and the Corps during the summer of 2015. Much of the political rhetoric surrounding the Clean Water Rule has suggested ...

The Surprising Evolution of Federal Stream Protections

by Dave Owen | May 05, 2016
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Dave Owen. Right now, the United States' second-most-heated environmental controversy—behind only the Clean Power Plan—involves the Clean Water Rule, which seeks to clarify the scope of federal regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. According to its many opponents, the rule is one big power grab. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, according to the standard rhetoric, are unfurling their regulatory tentacles across the landscape like some monstrous kraken, with ...

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