PennFuture Blog

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New Definition of “Waters of the United States” Threatens Clean Water Act Protections

On February 14, 2019, the federal agencies tasked with regulating our nation’s waters under the Clean Water Act – the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers – issued a new definition of “waters of the United States,” which will dramatically limit the protections of the Clean Water Act.

This proposed rule, aptly nicknamed the “Dirty Water Rule,” would, among other things, remove federal protections from ephemeral waters (those that flow only in response to precipitation events) and those wetlands that lack a direct physical or surface hydrological connection to protected waters. These waters are important not only for their own ecological roles, but they are critical for providing cleaner water downstream. Nationally, approximately 18% of our nation’s streams and over half of the wetlands could lose federal protections under the Dirty Water Rule. More concerning is that the federal government has no idea what the impacts will be to Pennsylvania’s water resources!

What’s most alarming about the Dirty Water Rule is that the gutting of the Clean Water Act’s protections is not based in either science or the law. Rather, it is a capitulation to big industry, making it easier for them to pollute some of our most critical headwaters and wetlands. The Dirty Water Rule will jeopardize over 40 years of successes under the Clean Water Act’s mandate to protect the biological, chemical, and physical integrity of our nation’s waters.

What You Can Do:

Learn more about the Dirty Water Rule at PennFuture’s webinar this Thursday, March 28 at 6:00pm.

We’ll talk about the history of “waters of the United States,” the Trump Administration’s attacks on our clean water, and the consequences of this drastic limitation of Clean Water Act protections. We’ll also have a Q&A session at the end. Sign up here.

Tell the US government that you OPPOSE the Dirty Water Rule!

The public comment period for the Dirty Water Rule is open until April 15, 2019. Please let the federal agencies know that you oppose the gutting of Clean Water Act protections.

You can sign PennFuture’s opposition comment or write your own and submit it via email to

More about “waters of the United States”:

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