December 1, 2023

In an aerial photo, low water levels can be seen at Lake Oroville on June 1st, 2021 in Oroville, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army announced their intention on Wednesday to expand the number of waterways protected under the Clean Water Act.

The move would reverse a rule passed by the Trump administration last year that limits the waters that could receive state protection. The Biden government plans to extend protection to smaller waterways such as streams, ditches, and wetlands that flow into larger bodies of water.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement that the Trump administration’s policies had “caused significant environmental damage.”

The EPA and the Army said they found that the Trump Rule significantly reduced the protection of clean water, a major issue as the western United States is grappling with severe drought and water scarcity.

In New Mexico and Arizona, authorities found that almost all of the more than 1,500 streams examined are out of jurisdiction and therefore cannot receive protection from the federal government.

Jaime Pinkham, Acting Army Assistant Secretary for Construction, said the Trump rule has reduced “provisions on waters that would otherwise be protected” by 25%.

The Trump ruling known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule reversed an earlier attempt by the Obama administration to give a broader definition of “United States waters” under the Clean Water Act.

According to a press release, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will consider the latest scientific evidence and the effects of climate change on US waters during the new rulemaking process.

“We are committed to creating a permanent definition of ‘United States waters’ based on Supreme Court precedents and learning the lessons from current and past regulations,” Regan said.

According to the announcement, the Ministry of Justice is now applying for pre-trial detention.