A rule published by the Trump administration removed protections for 21 percent of streams and 25 percent of wetlands that otherwise could have received federal protection, new research has found.
The protections removed under the 2020 rule amounted to a deregulation of 690,000 stream miles and 35 million wetland acres, according to a paper published in the journal Science.
The exact impacts of the rule were previously unclear because while federal regulations can set guidelines for whether certain bodies of water get protections, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis using those guidelines by the Army Corps of Engineers.
However, since 2020, the political and legal landscape governing water regulations has changed.
The Biden administration sought to protect more waters than its predecessor, but a 2023 Supreme Court ruling limited its ability to do so.
The Biden administration has put new rules into place that implement the court’s decision.
But, study author Joseph Shapiro said that early results of decisions made under the new framework are “similar” to the outcomes under the Trump rule.
Shapiro also said that the methods the study uses can also be used in the future to figure out how many streams and wetlands are being protected under the latest framework.
The study used machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence in which computers data to identify patterns or make predictions, to predict which waters are regulated.