The decision by a federal judge in Texas to freeze implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean water restoration rule in Texas and Idaho delays critical protections for drinking water, flood mitigation, and wildlife habitat for communities across both states. It also sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the urgent restoration of federal clean water protections nationwide.
“Recent rollbacks of clean water protections left communities, businesses, and ecosystems in danger,” said Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation. “The EPA’s new rule is a common sense, science-based return to longstanding protections — firmly rooted in the structure and purpose of the Clean Water Act — that will begin to restore fragile and degraded streams and wetlands across the nation. The court’s injunction of implementation of this rule in Texas and Idaho introduces an unnecessary, dangerous delay to this urgent restoration process in both states. It is critical that the rule is allowed to go into effect across the rest of the nation.”
“Texas waterways and wetlands are already suffering immense damage from development and climate pressures,” said Danielle Goshen, policy specialist at National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Coast and Water Program. “In addition to supporting wildlife habitat, healthy streams and wetlands improve water quality and mitigate impacts of flooding. Development of unprotected wetlands was a contributing factor in the unprecedented flood damage incurred during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 – with Harris County losing roughly 29 percent of wetlands present in 1992 by 2010. This injunction blocks a return to baseline protections needed to recover from the past decade of damage. Texans need to voice their concern and tell lawmakers to prioritize wetland and stream protections.”
The EPA’s rule reinstates protection levels consistent with longstanding Clean Water Act requirements that have largely been in place for the last 15 years. A Supreme Court decision in a case (Sackett v. EPA) that addresses what waters are protected under the act is expected before the end of the court’s current term.
For more on the Clean Water Act and the uncertainties facing waters across the nation see the National Wildlife Federation’s recent report, Five Decades of Clean Water.