KAJX

Clean Water Act Rollback Likely Won't Hurt Local Rivers

Sep 15, 2019

The Roaring Fork River in July 2019.
Credit Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency repealed Obama-era expansions to the Clean Water Act. Those extensions had aimed to redefine the act’s scope and include more wetlands and smaller rivers and streams under its protections.

Now that the 2015 extensions have been rolled back, federal water rules revert back to where they were in 1986. Experts say while the move has created uncertainty, it does not erase the bulk of federal water protections.

“Having the rule removed doesn't remove the regulation,” said Colorado River District spokesman Chris Treese. “It doesn't remove the protections that are still there. So I don't think people have to worry.”

The Trump administration has released a draft of new water regulations that could go into place after review and public comment. Treese says even if those proposed rules get adopted, there are other regional regulations that could serve as a safeguard against unchecked pollution.

“There is state permitting and there is local permitting that would protect from any of the horribles that people suggest could happen.” Treese said. “That you could dump a toxic waste with impunity if the Trump era rule were in place. I don't believe that's true.”