COLORADO SPRINGS — The long-proposed walk back of water regulations in the United States became official Thursday, as the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the changes at President Donald Trump’s direction.
The change largely scales back 2015 changes to the definition of what waterways are considered a “Water of the United States” and thus warrant federal protections.
“Over the past five decades, there have been multiple definitions of what is a Water of the United States,” said Greg Sopkin, the administrator the EPA region governing Colorado. “This long and complicated history has left Americans, including farmers, businesses and landowners confused and uncertain about how far federal jurisdiction goes.”
Most noticeably, wetlands not adjacent to waters under federal jurisdiction as well as streams that only run during rainfall are two of several waterway protections being walked back.
“The change in the rule, at the end of the day, is going to put our drinking water at risk,” Clean Water Field Manager for Environment Colorado Kristine Oblock said. “When we remove protections for wetlands, not only is it our filter system for any pollution that is flowing into our streams—then ultimately to our rivers, and then to our oceans, not to mention our drinking water— it also is our barrier against flooding.”
Before the rule became official, the EPA’s Science Advisory Panel called the changes “in conflict with established science” and “decreases protection for our nation’s water and does not support the objective of restoring and maintaining” those water ways.
“This is science-based, we looked at science to determine how waterways operate, how they contribute to navigable waters,” Sopkin said. “What you have to understand is we start from the basis of what is allowed under federal law under the clean water act.”