Washington, DC, April 4, 2018 – Key provisions on the Clean Water Act are now under the political thumb of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, according to directives posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In a new directive, Pruitt has assumed personal control over a range of key decisions determining preservation of streams, ponds and wetlands.
In a memo dated March 30, 2018 citing the need to “restore regulatory certainty,” Pruitt directed EPA regional offices to cede their Clean Water Act determinations to him:
“With this revised delegation, authority previously delegated to regional administrators to make final determinations of geographic jurisdiction shall be retained by the Administrator…As part of effectuating this revision, I ask that you involve the Administrator’s Office early on in the process of developing geographic determinations”
Among other changes, this new directive –
- Eliminates the role of locally-based EPA scientists and specialists in reviewing projects and making wetland determinations or other clean water-related calls;
- Imposes a one size fits all scenario in which regional differences in wetlands, wildlife, precipitation, and other variations are not recognized; and
- Removes any role by EPA regional offices to essentially “veto” an Army Corps of Engineers dredge and fill permit.
“This action subjects safeguards for clean water across the U.S. to filtration through one politician’s hands,” stated New England Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney, scientist, and wetlands specialist who formerly worked for EPA. “Every corporation that wants a pass on Clean Water Act compliance is invited to privately meet with the most user friendly EPA Administrator in history.”
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Last year, Pruitt announced a plan to shrink by as much as two-thirds the scope of protected “Waters of the United States” that define the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Now, without waiting to outline, let alone complete, his legal rewrite, he has imposed new, far more lenient standards on a case-by-case basis.
“This latest move by Pruitt is his Plan B as it is becoming increasingly clear that his Clean Water rewrite plan is illegal and will be tossed out in court,” added Bennett, noting the irony of the Pruitt directive invoking “the rule of law.” “This amounts to a crude Clean Water Act coup d’état.”