Environment, News

Biden Administration Plans To Redo Controversial Water Rule

In this file photo, a young alligator is shown sunning itself in the Okefenokee Swamp. A Trump-era rule is being revisited that affects a proposed mine near the swamp.
In this file photo, a young alligator is shown sunning itself in the Okefenokee Swamp. A Trump-era rule is being revisited that affects a proposed mine near the swamp.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are revisiting a Trump-era rule that affects a proposed mine near Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp.

Under the current version of the law, the controversial mine doesn’t need any federal permits to be built.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration said it plans to revise the rule.

“This rule is leading to significant environmental degradation,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

The Navigable Water Rule, introduced by the Trump administration, narrowed which waterways were protected by the federal Clean Water Act. Because of that rule, federal agencies decided last year that they don’t have jurisdiction over the proposed titanium mine near the Okefenokee.

According to the EPA, hundreds of projects that would have required federal review and permits under an earlier interpretation of the law no longer do.

But some states, including Georgia, and farmers had pushed back on an Obama-era version, which they said was too broad.

The Biden administration’s revision to the rule could take years and likely would not work retroactively on projects such as the Twin Pines mining project, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is challenging the Trump rule in court.

“The Biden administration must act quickly to restore clean water protections because the current rule lets developers, industry or anyone else pollute, fill or pave over these waters without federal permit,” said Kelly Moser, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Twin Pines does still need permits from the state of Georgia.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division declined to comment on the EPA’s announcement. But the agency is reviewing the proposal and has said it will hold public hearings on the mine.

“I can’t comment on a change in the definition of Waters of the U.S.,” Twin Pines Minerals president Steve Ingle said in an emailed statement. “Right now it would be pure speculation as to what it might or might not be. We will follow the guidelines that are in force now and in the future and will continue to do what the regulators instruct us to do.”