farmers

EPA finalizes clean water rollback amid science challenges
New rule removes federal authority over smaller bodies of water that feed larger water supplies. Opponents said states should handle such local regulation

President Donald Trump shows a hat that says “Make Counties Great Again” before signing an executive order in February 2017 to  roll-back of environmental regulations put in place by the Obama administration. (Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images file photo)

The Trump administration on Thursday finalized a rule that significantly reduces the federal government’s role in regulating waterways, fulfilling a campaign promise to farmers and energy interests and handing a win to conservatives who have pushed for changes to the Clean Water Act regulations.

The rule, which redefines what constitutes “waters of the United States,” revises decades-old standards for regulating waterways, a move environmentalists warn will lead to pollution of water that wildlife and people depend on, especially in low-income areas and communities of color. Several current and former EPA and Army Corps of Engineers employees and scientific advisers oppose the move, charging that political appointees blocked the use of scientific information in writing the rule.

Interior nears a contract with a company its secretary used to lobby for
Conservation groups fear water deal will be a hazard for protected salmon and other aquatic life

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt testifies in May 2019. The department he leads is close to completing a contract for a water district he represented as a lobbyist. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Interior Department is close to completing a permanent water supply contract for a water district once represented by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as a lobbyist, despite concerns that doing so would imperil aquatic species including endangered salmon. 

Conservation groups say the deal between the Interior Department and the Westlands Water District, which serves and is run by farmers in California’s Central Valley, promises to permanently divert more federally managed water to the district just as climate change threatens to make the state hotter and more prone to extreme drought.

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