June 28 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has begun the legal process of rolling back an Obama-era rule that establishes protections for the country's waterways.
Former President Barack Obama established Clean Water Rule -- also known as the Waters of the United States or WOTUS rule -- under the 1972 Clean Water Act to clarify federal protections of bodies of water around the country. The rule effectively limited pollution in about 60 percent of the nation's water.
Environmentalists praised the rule, but farmers, land developers and conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation argue that the rule is too broad and is an infringement on property rights. President Donald Trump has publicly lambasted the rule, calling it a "massive power grab."
On Tuesday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt made the first step to rescind the rule by pubishing a proposal.
"We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses," Pruitt said in a statement. "This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine 'waters of the U.S.' and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public."
The announcement drew the ire of environmentalists who argue water protection ought to be a priority for any administration, including Trump's.
"This proposal strikes directly at public health," Rhea Suh, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, told The New York Times. "It would strip out needed protections for the streams that feed drinking water sources for one in every three Americans. Clean water is too important for that. We'll stand up to this reckless attack on our waters and health.