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How the Trump Administration Eased Destruction of the Nation's Wetlands and Streams

March 2021

Citation: 51 ELR 10194

Issue: 3

Author: David Groves

On June 22, 2020, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), the most significant rollback of the jurisdictional scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) since its passage almost 50 years ago, went into effect. Supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Petroleum Institute, and other development interests, the NWPR is based on Justice Antonin Scalia’s plurality opinion in Rapanos v. United States, arguing that federal jurisdiction is limited to “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water” and wetlands that have a “continuous surface connection” to those waters. Given the interconnectivity of the wetlands and streams across the nation’s landscape, and the intermittent and ephemeral nature of the majority of these waters, Justice Scalia’s approach is not grounded in the scientific literature, and will prevent the nation from achieving the goal described in the CWA “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters." With now more than six months of NWPR implementation, we are beginning to get a picture of the scale of the jurisdictional rollback and what it means for the quality of our water, the resiliency of our homes and infrastructure in the face of increasingly intense storm events and drought, and the viability of the countless commercially important species that rely on wetlands for survival.

David Groves is Director of Business Development at The Earth Partners.

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