EPA moves to replace Obama-era rule protecting drinking water for 117 million

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday inched closer to proposing a regulation to replace an Obama-era rule that clarified which bodies of water qualified for federal protection. 

The proposal comes more than a year after EPA administrator Scott Pruitt signed an executive action to revoke the 2015 Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule. The regulation clarified which wetlands and streams could be protected under the Clean Water Act and expanded federal authority to all “navigable” waters. That extended the federal safeguards to 2 million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands, securing the drinking water of more than 117 million Americans.

But a federal judge stayed the Clean Water Rule in 2015; the rule has since bounced around the courts. In January, the Supreme Court volleyed the case back to the district court level. In the meantime, Pruitt began the process of repealing the rule outright.

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A pile of trash collected after it washed up on shore from the Pacific Ocean, waiting now to be shipped out, is seen as U.S. President Barack Obama tours the trash "boneyard" at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Midway Atoll, U.S., September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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A boy is hit by waves at the height of Typhoon Nanmadol, known locally as Typhoon Mina, as he collects recyclable materials from garbage washed onto the shore along Manila Bay in Manila August 27, 2011. The local weather bureau said Typhoon Nanmadol slowed down but maintained its strength after making landfall over Gonzaga town in Cagayan province Saturday morning. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY DISASTER TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
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PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08: Volunteers collect plastic rubbish and waste washed up on the beach besides the University of Plymouth's Marine Station as they take part in a awareness-raising event organised by the all-female eXXpedition crew who are preparing to sail around Britain to highlight plastic in the oceans on August 8, 2017 in Plymouth, England. In a pioneering sailing expedition, starting and finishing at the University of Plymouth's Marine Station, a diverse group of women will collect water samples to measure for micro-plastics and other toxic chemicals, as well as hold events in the various ports that they sail to including Cardiff, Belfast, Arran, Stornaway, Edinburgh, London and Plymouth. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
MARETTIMO ISLAND, SICILY, ITALY - JULY 6 2017: plastic trash is seen during a rock bottom dive site -33 meters below the sea level on July 6 2017 inside the Egadi Arcipelago Natural reserve.
Plastic in the sea is collected by the crew of a whale spotting boat out at sea on the Atlantic Ocean looking towards the volcanic coastline near Tazacorte in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. La Palma, also San Miguel de La Palma, is the most north-westerly Canary Island in Spain. La Palma has an area of 706�km2 making it the fifth largest of the seven main Canary Islands. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
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A damaged truck sits in a sea of plastic at a scrap yard near the town of Palo after Typhoon Haiyan hit the east coast of the Philippines, on November 20, 2013. The Philippines has received loan pledges totalling one billion dollars to help rebuild areas ravaged by super Typhoon Haiyan, after the World Bank matched an Asian Development Bank offer. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
plastic bottles and other garbage washed up on a beach in the county of cork, Ireland. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Rubbish litter pollution on Botafogo beach near the marina, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
Rubbish litter pollution on Botafogo beach near the marina, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
Volunteers remove rubbish washed ashore along the coastline of freedom island in Paranaque City, suburban Manila on June 8, 2013 during a coastal clean-up drive as part of the program on World Ocean Day. Freedom Island or the Las Pinas- Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) has been declared a bird sanctuary by the government. AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
BUNAKEN, INDONESIA - JANUARY 11: A polluted beach on the island of Bunaken near Manado, Indonesia, pictured on January 11, 2013. (Photo by Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty Images)
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On Thursday evening, Pruitt said he planned to send the new rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget. In a tweet wishing President Donald Trump a happy birthday, Pruitt said he announced the WOTUS replacement in a meeting with farm interests in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

The new proposal comes amid a series of personal and professional scandals involving Pruitt. People have called for Pruitt to be investigated for public corruption and fired following revelations of his extravagant spending, bizarre requests of aides, and use of his office to enrich himself. President Donald Trump has so far defended the embattled administrator, insisting as recently as this month that the “EPA is doing really, really well.”

But conservatives began to turn on Pruitt this week. On Wednesday, a dark-money conservative group in Iowa rolled out a new TV ad calling Pruitt a “swamp monster” who is “embarrassing the president.” Later that day, conservative pundit and Trump booster Laura Ingraham said in a tweet that Pruitt had “gotta go.” Even Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who counts Pruitt as a friend and protégé, said on Ingraham’s radio program that it may be time for Pruitt to step aside.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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