Federal Judge Restores Protections for Streams, Marshes, and Wetlands

A federal judge has thrown out an environmental rollback that scaled back federal protections for the nation’s streams, marshes, and wetlands ruling that agency officials committed serious errors while writing the regulation and that leaving it in place could lead to “serious environmental harm.”

The Clean Water Act prohibits polluting “waters of the United States” without a permit. But the definition of which waterways fall under that category has been debated since the law’s passage in 1972.

In 2015, the classification of US waters was expanded to include a broad group of water bodies, including “ephemeral” streams that appear only after rainfall events. These intermittent creeks and gullies can affect the water quality of large rivers and lakes downstream. However, in 2020 this standard was replaced with a narrower one in which only four categories of water could be regulated under the CWA.

As a result of the current ruling, agencies will go back to applying water protection standards from the 1980s, which are more expansive than the 2020 rule but not as sweeping as the 2015 one. EPA and Army Corps officials are currently working on regulations that would strengthen wetland protections.

For more information about this topic, see: https://www.ourdailyplanet.com/story/federal-judge-restores-obama-era-protections-for-streams-marshes-and-wetlands/?mc_cid=a1b78c1ebf&mc_eid=f80ef9de97; https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/08/30/water-rule-trump/