WASHINGTON, May 27 (UPI) -- The White House on Wednesday introduced a new rule to strengthen the Clean Water Act and limit pollution in about 60 percent of the United States' bodies of water.
The "Waters of the United States" rule, or Clean Water Rule, was first proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2014.
By clearly defining which water ways are protected -- only those that impact the health of larger bodies of water downstream -- the new rule in the Clean Water Act would reduce the amount of resources spent on case-specific analysis of water.
"For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures -- which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses."
Those who opposed the rule -- including Republicans, farmers and developers -- when it was first introduced in draft form in 2014, said it was a massive overreach by the federal government, the Sacramento Bee reported.
"Today's rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act," said Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. "This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act. This rule responds to the public's demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations. The result will be better public service nationwide."
In an EPA blog post, Darcy and McCarthy said the new rule doesn't create new permitting requirements for agriculture, maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions, and creates new exclusions for things like artificial lakes and ponds.
"Just like before, a Clean Water Act permit is only needed if a water is going to be polluted or destroyed -- and all exemptions for agriculture stay in place," they wrote.