By Miriam Raftery
October 31, 2017 (Sacramento) – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed opposition to the Trump Administration’s attempt to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which protect California’s lakes, rivers, and streams from pollution discharges.
Trump signed executive orders requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Corps of Engineers to review the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, which Trump calls a “massive power grab.” The president claims that regulations and permits “started treating our wonderful small farmers and small businesses as if they were major industrial polluter.”
But as NPR's Greg Allen has reported, "overturning the rule isn't something that can be done through executive order. The EPA would have to restart the lengthy rule-making process, according to Jon Devine, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council."
Trump's executive order has also drawn harsh criticism from environmental groups. Earthjustice accused the president of "demonstrating that he puts the interests of corporate polluters above the public's health."
Attorney General Becerra and eight attorneys general filed their official comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers. Their comments contend that the Trump Administration is violating the Administrative Procedure Act by ignoring factual findings supporting the Clean Water Rule and failing to articulate a satisfactory reason for reinstating the pre-2015 definition of “waters of the United States.”
"The Trump Administration is attempting to weaken protections for California’s waters,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Whose interests are they watching out for? I fully support the Clean Water Rule because it was legally promulgated, based on science, and will help protect our water resources. The stakes are high for California – if the Clean Water Rule is rolled back, many of our waterways may lose critical protections. The California Department of Justice refuses to stand idly by and let that happen.”
The 2015 Clean Water Rule sought to address significant issues with the prior definition of “waters of the United States.” For decades, the pre-2015 definition had been interpreted differently among the courts, leading to confusion, unpredictability, and inconsistent application of the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Rule clarified the definition of “waters of the United States” to explicitly include waters in floodplains, riparian areas, and intermittent and ephemeral streams. This was an especially important development for the State of California, as the majority of California’s streams and rivers are intermittent or ephemeral.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in submitting comments were the attorneys general of Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.