Donald Trump promises to 'promote clean water' hours after scrapping rule against dumping coal waste

Obama-era directive is one of many the new administration is doing away with

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Donald Trump has promised to promote clean air and water just hours after scrapping a set of rules designed to stop coal mining companies from destroying fragile water sources.

At a White House signing ceremony on Tuesday, the President called the Obama-era "Clean Water Rule", which has never been implemented because of a series of lawsuits, "one of the worst examples of federal regulation" that he said "has truly run amok".

The directive sought to define more clearly the official "Waters of the United States", protected under the Clean Water Act, to include smaller creeks and wetlands. Farmers and landowners have criticised it, saying there are already too many government regulations that affect their businesses, while Republicans have been working to thwart it since its inception. 

Mr Trump used his address to members of Congress on Tuesday night to pledge bipartisan action in a number of areas, including "to promote clean air and clear water". He did not go into further detail.

Now in the fifth week of his presidency, Mr Trump has also approved the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which protesters at Standing Rock argued would put their water supply at risk.

Democrats say the Clean Water Rule safeguarded drinking water for millions of Americans and clarified confusion about which streams, tributaries and wetlands should be protected in the wake of decades-long uncertainty and two Supreme Court rulings on the matter. 

Environmentalists, hunters and fishing groups said protecting smaller waterways was essential to keeping the larger downstream waters they feed clean. Also protected under the rule are some 20 million acres of wetlands that lack a visible connection to other waters but are vital for storing floodwaters, filtering pollutants and hosting wildlife.

Democratic senator and former Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders tweeted he had a "hard time not laughing" during Mr Trump's speech, after noting his order to roll back the Clean Water Rule.

Additional reporting by agencies