The Clean Water Blog

Ripples on the surface of the water. Credit: 2xWilfinger / Shutterstock

Trump Touts Clean Water Hours After Signing Order Attacking It

In his Joint Address to Congress on Tuesday, President Trump touted he will “promote clean air and clean water.” His remarks came only hours after signing an Executive Order directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to “reconsider” their 2015 Clean Water Rule that strengthened clean water protections, including the drinking water sources for more than 117 million people.


Promoting clean water in a speech is meaningless if the policies you are enacting will actually make it harder to protect water from harmful pollution. And that’s exactly what Trump’s Executive Order will do, while adding unnecessary confusion to an already overly complicated and controversial question: what types of water resources should the federal government protect from pollution or destruction?

If Trump and his polluter friends get their way (and that’s a big if, which I will explain later on), federal Clean Water Act protections would be limited to rivers and streams that flow year-round, interstate water resources (resources that share or cross state boundaries), and wetlands with a direct surface connection to any of those resources I just mentioned.

You might be thinking that sounds like a lot of water will be protected, but in fact many vital water resources would still be left vulnerable to pollution. More than half of our nation’s streams do not actually flow year-round and keeping them free of pollution is critically important to public health because they are sources of drinking water. Polluters don’t police themselves – so if the Clean Water Act doesn’t require an oil and gas company, mining operator, industrial farmer, or other industry to limit their pollution, the burden of cleaning up that pollution falls on someone else. In the case of polluted drinking water sources, it may fall on you, the drinking water consumer, in the form of a higher monthly water bill because of increased treatment costs for your water provider. Personally I think industries polluting shared water resources should have to pay to clean-up own pollution, not pass the cost off to the rest of us.

So, why the big if that polluters will actually get their way?

Trump’s Executive Order to reconsider the Clean Water Rule did not eliminate protections to small streams and wetlands over night, but it sent a strong message to the public that our President cares more about maximizing profits for his business buddies and industry pals than protecting drinking water sources for everyday people. His Dirty Water Order was immediately followed by EPA Administrator Pruitt signing a notice directing his Agency to look at options to repeal or rescind the rule. This complicated process could take years. It will require a public comment period and if the agency does eventually draft a new regulation, it will also require public comment period.

The 2015 Clean Water Rule underwent a robust public review and the majority of comments the Agencies received supported strong protections for streams and wetlands. The Rule is also grounded in sound law and scientific evidence. Any replacement regulation will be subjected to the same public scrutiny and legal and scientific standards. The last election did not alter years of Clean Water Act case law, change scientific facts, or reverse the strong public support for clean water. To learn more about what we are doing to push back against these ruthless attacks on clean water, visit