The EPA's on a Rollback

EPA to Begin Phasing Out Animal Testing and Funding Studies for More Humane Research Methods

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced the repeal of the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule that extended federal authority and protections to streams and wetlands.

The EPA has long relied on animal testing to ascertain the risks chemical and pesticides pose to humans and their health but it has been making moves to reduce the agency's reliance in recent years.

The repeal ends an "egregious power grab", Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler says.

An analysis by the Center estimates that the proposal would cut Clean Water Act protections for more than 3,000 watersheds in the western United States and accelerate the extinction of more than 75 endangered species, from steelhead trout to California tiger salamanders.

The proposed rule would remove several categories of waterways and wetlands from federal jurisdiction and limit the government's oversight to large bodies of water. A new rule is expected to be finalized this winter.

"This final rule reestablishes national consistency across the country, ' said James, assistant secretary of the U.S. Army for civil works". A series of cases around the Obama-era rule and a Trump-era rule to extend that rule's applicability date has left 22 states technically under the 2015 rule and the remaining, except New Mexico, under the old regulations.

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On Thursday, a 2015 rule that expanded the definition of "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act was formally revoked.

But repealing the rule without a replacement leaves behind "legal chaos", says Robert Glennon, a law professor at the University of Arizona.

"The Obama clean water rule had very clear lines defining which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, versus which waters are not, while repealing the rule means replacing those lines with case-by-case calls".

Happy to be on hand for the announcement was American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall who said the WOTUS issue and AFBF's "Ditch the Rule" campaign generated more interest among member than any ever before. "And by adding another layer, it just adds more ambiguity and uncertainty that farmers have to deal with and makes it hard for farmers to do their job", said Molesky. WOTUS aimed to provide a guideline for what is considered a "water of the United States" under the Clean Water Act. As a result, resetting the rule to the 1980s' version continues the uncertainty that has existed since the 2006 Supreme Court decision - with the potential that various federal court rulings could lead to another map like the one above. The executive order followed the legal view of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which was not adopted by the Supreme Court. The final rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Former EPA officials who've worked under Republican and Democratic administrations told NBC News that this rule change will only benefit mining industries, oil and gas pipeline corporations and land developers.

'This repeal is a victory for land developers, oil and gas drillers and miners who will exploit that ambiguity to dredge and fill small streams and wetlands that were protected from destruction by the 2015 rule due to their critical impact on national water quality, ' Southerland said.

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