Americans Less Concerned about Environment as Battle over Far-Reaching ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Hits Fever Pitch

by Casey Harper


As the battle over the controversial federal Waters of the United States environmental rule heats up, new polling shows that Americans are growing less concerned about the environment.

Newly released Gallup polling found a dip in environmental concerns, even though the Biden administration continues to push increasingly far-reaching policies.

“The percentages of Americans expressing a great deal of worry about air pollution and the loss of tropical rain forests have each fallen seven points since 2022, while worry about extinction of plant and animal species has declined five points, and the pollution of natural waterways and global warming or climate change are down four points each,” Gallup said. “Meanwhile, last year’s 57 percent high-level worry about polluted drinking water is statistically similar to this year’s 55 percent.”

One of Biden’s most broad and controversial policies is Waters of the United States (WOTUS), an extensive rule that gives the federal government broad authority over even small waterways. The Obama administration expanded the power of WOTUS in 2015, thrusting it to the forefront of the battle over federal environmental authority.

Former President Donald Trump weakened that rule during his administration, and Biden immediately began undoing Trump’s reworking of WOTUS.

Then in March of this year, the Senate passed a joint, bipartisan resolution of disapproval for WOTUS, 53-43. This kind of resolution uses a provision of the Congressional Review Act that allows lawmakers to overturn federal regulations.

Biden, however, vetoed the resolution, keeping WOTUS intact. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland temporarily halted the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps’ regulatory expansion via the rule after two dozen states filed suit.

“This WOTUS rule is another egregious example of unauthorized executive branch overreach and reveals just how out of touch D.C. bureaucrats are with rural America,” U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., told The Center Square.

Now, the controversial measure and its enforcement are in limbo.

“Biden’s outrageous WOTUS rule has been BLOCKED by a federal judge. This is fantastic news for our farmers!” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem wrote on Twitter after the ruling. “The Biden Administration should stop getting in the way of our ag producers. They feed the world – let them do their work.”

Farmers and ranchers have been particularly worried about WOTUS and welcomed the court’s decision.

“AFBF is pleased the District Court ordered EPA and the U.S. Army Corps to halt implementation of the troubled 2023 WOTUS Rule in Texas and Idaho,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said. “The judge recognized the new rule likely oversteps EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act, which creates uncertainty for the farmers and ranchers who must navigate the complicated regulations.”

The National Federation of Independent Business also took issue with Biden’s support of WOTUS, saying “this rule would increase the regulatory burdens and uncertainty facing small businesses” and pointing out that it “significantly expanded federal regulatory authority over wetlands, farms, and private property.”

“President Biden’s decision to veto a bipartisan Congressional resolution to repeal a complex and burdensome regulation further demonstrates a disconnect with the concerns of small businesses,” said Kevin Kuhlman, NFIB’s vice president of Federal Government Relations.

Gallup points out the decrease in concern is mostly among Democrats, suggesting Biden’s environmental policies could be the source of that drop in concern.

The EPA has made clear it stands by WOTUS despite the ruling.

“The agencies remain committed to establishing and implementing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ informed by diverse perspectives,” the EPA said after the ruling. “Our goal is to protect public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and industries that depend on clean water.”

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Casey Harper is a Senior Reporter for the Washington, D.C. Bureau of The Center Square. He previously worked for The Daily Caller, The Hill, and Sinclair Broadcast Group.




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