Trump repeals clean water regulation

Megan Behnke, News Reporter

The Trump Administration last month announced a repeal of a 2015 Obama-era clean water rule that placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and other bodies of water.
Two UWO professors disagree with the repeal citing that wetlands help the environment and provide habitats for a number of species.

UWO geography professor Colin Long said wetlands provide unique habitats for a variety of species that couldn’t exist in forest or prairie areas.

“They also provide access to water for a lot of larger animals and they’re generally hot spots for biodiversity in locations where they’re found,” Long said.

UWO Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology M. Elsbeth “Misty” McPhee said that any bit of wetlands that can be saved should be.

“It used to be that if you want to build a building and it happens to be on a wetland, and you say, ‘Okay, I’ll build another wetland over here to make up for the one I’m ruining in this spot,’ that that would be an acceptable tradeoff,” McPhee said. “Biologically and ecologically that is not an equal tradeoff at all. Get rid of that practice and basically keep people from taking away our wetlands.”

A New York Times article stated that an effect of the clean water repeal is that polluters will no longer need a permit to dispose of potentially harmful substances in streams and wetlands.

“But the measure, which is expected to take effect in a matter of weeks, has implications far beyond the pollution that will now be allowed to flow freely into waterways,” the article said.

Long said if you don’t think very much about where your food comes from or how people interact with the earth and keep the it functioning in a way that we’re used to, then there’s no reason to care for wetlands.

“If you have gained a little bit of knowledge and understand that they’re important in terms of providing opportunities for birds and insects and aquatic organisms and all kinds of other things, that if the [wetlands] weren’t there, [birds] wouldn’t be there,” Long said. “It diminishes the ecosystem when those wetlands are plowed under or paved over or turned into farmland.”

McPhee said people should care about functioning ecosystems because without them, humans can’t survive.

“That’s a piece a lot of people just don’t see in the short term,” McPhee said. “We keep doing that, we’re going to see a huge ecosystem collapse if we keep getting rid of all of these ecosystems. People should care because we need [functioning ecosystems], fundamentally.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers worked together to write the original Obama Clean Water Rule and are expected to issue a new, looser regulation by the end of the year, The New York Times reported.

The Times said it’s expected that the new measure, which is still being developed, will retain federal protections for larger bodies of water, the rivers that drain into them and wetlands directly adjacent to those bodies of water.