What impact did the Clean Water Act have on the environment?
It keeps 700 billion pounds of pollutants out of our waters annually, has slowed the rate of wetland loss, and doubled the number of waters that are safe for fishing and swimming. Levels of metals like lead in our rivers have declined dramatically.
The Clean Water Act: Recent Developments and Implications for Environmental Law
The Clean Water Act is a critical federal law governing the protection and management of surface water resources in the United States. The Act establishes a framework for how discharges of pollutants into rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water are regulated, with the overarching goal of protecting water quality and preventing water pollution. The Act has been amended several times since its passage in 1972, most recently in 2019, to respond to new issues and emerging threats. This article will summarize some of the recent developments under the Clean Water Act and their implications for environmental law.
One of the most significant changes to the Clean Water Act in recent years has been the 2015 Waters of the United States rule. This rule, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, resolved long-standing debates over which bodies of water (such as certain tributaries, streams, and wetlands) fall under federal protection. The rule was widely celebrated as a major victory for environmentalists and public health advocates, as it expanded Clean Water Act protections to many areas that had previously been excluded. However, the rule was challenged in court and was ultimately overturned.
In 2019, the EPA and Army Corps released a replacement to the Waters of the United States rule, currently known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This rule reduces the scope of Clean Water Act protection, eliminating some tributaries and wetlands and giving states more leniency in regulating their own waters. The rule has yet to take effect, as the legality of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule has become the subject of numerous court challenges.
The recent developments under the Clean Water Act have major implications for environmental law. The Waters of the United States rule and the Navigable Waters Protection rule have been seen by many as a battle between states’ rights and federal authority to protect the environment. Depending on the outcome these court cases, the legality of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule could have far-reaching implications for state and federal power to regulate water resources in the future.
The Clean Water Act is a critical federal law, and recent developments surrounding the Act have major implications for environmental law. The legal challenges to the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule and its replacement, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, have major implications for future debates over the scope of federal and state authority to protect water sources. It is important for all stakeholders to stay informed about these developments and their potential impacts.