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WASHINGTON, April 21, 2020 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued a final rule that limits the waters afforded protection under the Clean Water Act. This new, restrictive definition will enable higher levels of pollution and undermine the agency’s mission of protecting public health, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS and former deputy director of the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This new rule is nothing more and nothing less than a license to pollute. By excluding a wide range of wetlands, temporary streams, and groundwater from protection, the EPA is increasing the risk to the water systems we all depend on.

For decades, the Clean Water Act has helped to reduce pollution and protect public health. With this new rule, EPA political leaders are aiding powerful polluting industries at the expense of public health and safety. It’s irresponsible and nonsensical to pretend, as EPA does, that smaller streams don’t flow into larger ones, and that we can simply focus on protecting bigger waterways. Pollution at one point in the water system affects the whole system. Scientists and public health advocates—including the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board—have criticized EPA’s approach to this rule.

Releasing this rule right before Earth Day adds insult to injury. Even as EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler touts five decades of environmental progress, he’s knowingly dismantling the rules that made that progress possible, putting us all on a path to dirtier air and water and unhealthier communities.

This is yet another moment the administration is rolling back protections that are vital to public health—in the midst of perhaps the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe and sustainable future. For more information, go to www.ucsusa.org