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AG Nessel Urges EPA to Expand Clean Water Act Protections for Nation's Waterways

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, as part of a multistate coalition, urged the Biden Administration to repeal a Trump-era rule drastically curtailing protections under the Clean Water Act. Under the 2020 rule, more than half of all wetlands and at least 18 percent of all streams across the United States were left without federal protections.  

Western states were even harder hit, with 35 percent of all streams deprived of federal protections as a result of the 2020 rule. The coalition supports the Biden Administration's proposed regulation to restore the 1980s definition of "waters of the United States" and urges the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to take swift action to develop a more expansive definition that is consistent with science and the law, addresses the impacts of climate change, and serves environmental justice communities. 

"In order to properly protect our environment, the EPA and Army Corps' definition of 'waters of the United States' must be expanded and take into account the impacts of climate change," Nessel said. "I urge the administration to strengthen the Clean Water Act and help preserve Michigan water quality." 

The definition of "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act is critical to maintaining a strong federal foundation for water pollution controls that preserve the integrity of our waters. While the Clean Water Act has resulted in dramatic improvements to water quality in the United States, its overriding objective has not yet been achieved. Many of the Nation's waters remain polluted.   

The 2020 rule made the Clean Water Act's goals further out of reach, threatening entire watersheds, including 4.8 million miles of streams and 16.3 million acres of non-floodplain wetlands. In May 2020, a coalition led by California and New York filed a lawsuit challenging the unlawful rule. In today's comments, the coalition supports the Biden Administration's proposal to undo the 2020 rule and urges the Biden Administration to adopt a more protective definition of "waters of the United States" that takes into account environmental justice and climate change and is consistent with science and the law. 

All Americans are entitled to clean water for drinking, recreation, and countless other uses that sustain our life and economic activities, but many of the most vulnerable and already overburdened communities continue to lack access to this fundamental resource. In the comments, the coalition specifically addresses the need for the Biden Administration to adopt a new definition of "waters of the United States" that strives to eliminate these inequities. In addition, as water quality and quantity continue to change as a result of more frequent, severe, and unpredictable weather events, the coalition argues that it is essential that the new definition be based on a consideration of the consequences of climate change.  

Joining Attorney General Nessel in sending this letter are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, the City of New York, and the California State Water Resources Control Board. 

A copy of the letter can be found here