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A federal judge has thrown out a Trump administration environmental rollback that scaled back federal protections for the nation’s streams, marshes, and wetlands. Despite support from farm and business groups, the federal judge ruled that the rollback could lead to “serious environmental harm.” Environmental groups are celebrating the decision, which will reinstate protections for Americans’ drinking water supplies and wetland wildlife.
Why This Matters: Drinking water is a rapidly disappearing resource, and millions of Americans are experiencing water shortages and mandatory water use cuts. A “mega drought” in the U.S. west has pushed the Colorado river to record lows, triggering the first-ever water shortage declaration for the river and Lake Mead, which provide drinking water to 40 million people. As heatwaves and increasing natural disasters sweep the U.S., the public demand for clean, accessible drinking water is on the rise. To meet this demand, the nation will have to protect at least 30% of all public lands and waters by 2030.
Islands in the Stream
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Márquez wrote in her decision that Trump officials made serious errors while finalizing the new, looser version of the Obama Era Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The rule builds on the 1972 Clean Water Act, which protects the “waters of the United States” by explicitly protecting a broader category of waters, including “ephemeral” systems that may only appear after rainfall and help improve water quality in larger bodies.
The decision is a win for Indigenous and environmental groups, which pushed the federal court to overturn the rollback in less time than it would take the Biden administration to rewrite the regulations. Christian Hunt, the Southeast program representative for Defenders of Wildlife, says that the decision already impacts Georgia, where a titanium strip-mining operation threatened the Okefenokee Swamp. “This is a welcome day for the Okefenokee, the wetlands surrounding the refuge, and will force Twin Pines to reevaluate this disastrous project,” he said.
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor In another significant blow to the Pebble Mine project in Alaska, the EPA has asked a federal court to allow Clean Water Act protections for parts of Bristol Bay, a body of water that stands to be decimated if the project continues. Environmental advocates and Alaska Native tribes hope […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer California’s record-breaking drought is not just a result of climate change — it’s also making climate change worse. According to a new study, population growth and energy-sapping water projects have driven up emissions and slowed down decarbonization campaigns. As it gets more and more difficult for Californians to rely […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Between 1991 and 2020, Brazil lost 15% of its surface water, a new study shows. The country holds the most water resources globally, but both the world’s most extensive wetlands and rainforests are losing water at rapid rates. Now, severe drought and deforestation threaten water security and access to energy and food for millions, […]
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