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PA Business Leaders Celebrate Trump’s Clean Water Rollback

Reed Saxon
Students from "Agua University" at Compton High School, and others, test water samples as a coalition of public and private stakeholders announce the strategic acquisition of a four-acre "soft bottom" parcel of land in Compton Creek, in Compton, Calif.

The Trump administration’s new plan to repeal an Obama-era clean water regulation has been met with deeply mixed reactions in Pennsylvania, and across the country.

Business advocates largely support the change, but environmentalists say it would be terrible for rivers, streams, and other waterways.  

The regulation in question is known as Waters of the United States, or WOTUS.

President Barack Obama’s administration rolled it out in 2015—an expansion of the existing Clean Water Act that applied federal pollution controls to smaller waterways, like streams and wetlands.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency said it plans to redefine which waterways are federally protected, and which are left to the states.

Farmers and business owners have long decried WOTUS as overreach. Kevin Sunday, with the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, said it caused permitting confusion.

“Businesses in Pennsylvania certainly want to do the right thing,” he said. “It’s just a question of interstate waterways—Susquehanna, clearly an interstate waterway, right? Conodoguinet feeding into that? Maybe. The stormwater runoff that’s going into the Conodoguinet? Possibly.”

Environmental groups, however, say WOTUS has been vital in protecting waterways.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, for instance, called the administration’s move an “assault” on clean water that “ignores the EPA’s own science.”

The foundation added, it is concerned the Trump administration aims to go further, and roll back protections on waterways from the original Clean Water Act.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.