California will be hit hard as Trump administration weakens clean water protections

LA Times –

Defying environmentalists and public health advocates, the Trump administration on Thursday will announce the replacement of Obama-era water protections with a significantly weaker set of regulations that lifts limits on how much pollution can be dumped into small streams and wetlands.

The changes to the Clean Water Act’s protections are expected to hit California and other Western states especially hard.

Federal data suggest 81% of streams in the Southwest would lose long-held protections, including tributaries to major waterways that millions of people rely on for drinking water.

Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to announce the new rules in Las Vegas at a conference of the National Association of Home Builders — one of the industry groups that pushed for loosening clean water rules

Under the new rule, polluters will no longer need a permit to release contaminated water into so-called ephemeral streams — sometimes called washes or arroyos — where water flows only occasionally because of rainstorms and snowmelt. Wetlands that aren’t immediately adjacent to protected waters will also lose protection.

Both of these features are common in Western states, and scientists say they are likely to become more so as warming temperatures make a dry climate drier.

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