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Murky Waters: Clean Water Rule Active In Only Half The Country Amid Repeal Process

Nicole Erwin
Ohio Valley ReSource
A wetland located in west Kentucky, previously used for crop production.

A battle over what is considered a protected body of water under the Clean Water Act remains murky following a ruling Thursday by a federal judge. That decision  halted the Trump administration's attempt to repeal what’s known as the Clean Water Rule.


  Whether or not the federal government can regulate activity around some farm ponds, wetlands and streams now depends on which state contains the waterway. The Trump administration has attempted to delay an Obama administration rule known as the Waters of the U.S., which aimed to clarify jurisdiction of the clean water act.  

But a South Carolina District Court ruled that the Trump administration did not follow the Administrative Procedures Act. Because of the federal ruling, the Ohio Valley is split when it comes to  stream protections.

Ohio will join 25 other states that accept the Obama era 2015 ruling. Kentucky and West Virginia waterways will be regulated by policy implemented in the 1980s, where other district court injunctions remain in place. A Kentucky Department of Agriculture spokesperson said the department is reviewing the opinion, and will continue to monitor the courts on this issue.

Environmental groups like the Kentucky Waterways Alliance hailed the decision. Executive Director Ward Wilson says the fight isn’t over.

“We would like to keep the clean water rule,” Ward said. “It protects all our waters and we need to do that. The administration is trying to move quickly to remove this protection that was crafted over years with a lot of scientific input and public input.”

A federal judge cited the lack of public input reviewed by the EPA to repeal the rule  in the injunction decision.  Parties on both sides expect an appeal.



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