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Opposition grows to EPA water management rule

Snake River omitted lands-jax

SEATTLE, Wa. (KIFI/KIDK) - A group of outdoor recreation and conservation advocates are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Released on June 1, the rule is to become effective on September 11, 2020.

The advocates, including the Western Environmental Law Center, American Rivers, Idaho Rivers, and American Whitewater, believe the rule effectively sidelines any role from the states or the public in permitting decisions affecting clean water.  

The state of Idaho submitted its objections through the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality last fall.

“With this rule change, the Trump administration has given corporations the green light to run roughshod over local communities, and has proven it is more interested in corporate rights than states’ rights,” said Andrew Hawley, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “The judicial branch must intervene to preserve some semblance of balance in our nation. What an opportunity for the courts here: To stop this flagrant overreach steamrolling states and Tribes while preserving an essential public health and clean water protection.”

Conservation advocates say the Section 401 provisions suppress state and Tribal public participation in processes that govern U.S. water policy.

The rule change is separate from rollbacks to the “Waters of the U.S.” Rule, which eliminates protections for many bodies of water throughout the country.  

But the conservation advocates believe that, together, the rules would allow projects like pipelines, hydropower, industrial plants, municipal facilities, and wetland developments to be developed in spite of states’ and tribes’ wishes.  

“Under the cover of COVID-19, the Trump administration has again stripped one of our bedrock environmental laws and is giving extractive and polluting industries the power to dictate their own pollutant levels in our rivers, lakes, and wetlands, all in the name of profit,” said Nic Nelson of Idaho Rivers United. “By effectively silencing public review and participation processes for these projects, they will have equally degraded our basic rights of democracy.” 

In its challenge, the group said the new rule directly overturns Congressional intent to integrate state and federal authority for permitting decisions affecting state waterways.

You can find the details of the rule here.

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