Distorting Science, putting Water at Risk
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
The Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) (1), which was published in April by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (“the Agencies”), has redefined “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) to restrict federal protection of vulnerable waters (2). With its emphasis on “continuous surface connections” and “permanen[ce],” the NWPR removes or reduces protection for U.S. waters, including millions of miles of streams and acres of wetlands, many of which comprise headwaters that are critical for sustaining water quality and healthy watersheds (3) (see the figure). Although the Agencies claim to have “looked to scientific principles to inform” the NWPR, science has been largely ignored and oversimplified. These new exclusions are based on selective parsing of statutory language and earlier case law, rather than on previously established, science-based interpretations of the U.S. Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) (4). The EPA's own Science Advisory Board (SAB) found sufficient evidence to conclude that “…the proposed Rule lacks a scientific justification, while potentially introducing new risks to human and environmental health” (5). Responding to this unprecedented distortion of science and rollback in water protections, which went into effect nationwide on 22 June, will require coordinated efforts among scientists, lawmakers, and resource managers.
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Citation / Publisher Attribution
Science, v. 369, issue 6505, p. 766-768
Scholar Commons Citation
Sullivan, S. Mažeika Patricio; Rains, Mark; Rodewald, Amanda D.; Buzbee, William W.; and Rosemond, Amy D., "Distorting Science, putting Water at Risk" (2020). School of Geosciences Faculty and Staff Publications. 2282.