The Trump Administration revoked the 2015 Waters of the United States rule that defined which waterways were subject to federal regulations. The Clean Water Act requires landowners to obtain federal permits before developing or polluting navigable waterways like rivers and lakes. An Obama regulation extended the waterway definition to include small headwater streams and channels that flow only after rainfall. The question of which waterways were covered by the Act inspired numerous lawsuits and bills in Congress for decades.
Environmentalists contend many of those smaller, seemingly isolated waters are tributaries of the larger waterways and can have a significant effect on their quality. Denying them federal protection would leave millions of Americans with less safe drinking water and allow damage of wetlands that prevent flooding, filter pollutants and provide habitat for a multitude of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife, they said.
But Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler said in a statement: “The 2015 rule meant that more businesses and landowners across the U.S. would need to obtain a federal permit to exercise control over their own property, a process that can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take months or even years to complete,” he said. “It also put more local land-use decisions in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. Many Americans balked at this idea, and rightfully so.”