February 28, 2017
President Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday scrapping a controversial Environmental Protection Agency rule that expanded the agency’s jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways during the second term of former President Obama.
The regulation, known as the Waters of the U.S. rule, broadened the definition of the type of water body that would fall under EPA’s formidable clean water enforcement powers, making everything from streams to ditches and watering holes subject to the EPA’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ oversight.
The rule has been a top target for the GOP on Capitol Hill for more than two years, with Republicans and some Democrats opposing the regulation, which was renamed the Clean Water Rule after being made final by EPA. Trump vowed to repeal the regulation during his campaign. The executive order is meant to be a sign that he intends to keep his promises to supporters, who want to rein in the Obama administration’s overreaching rules.
The executive order makes the legal argument that the rule oversteps the agencies’ statutory authority, and therefore must be remanded back to the agencies and reconsidered, White House officials told reporters.
“Decisions in the Supreme Court over time have been somewhat confusing, but it’s pretty clear that the jurisdictions that oversee this issue should be shrinking,” not expanding, one official said. “The problem with the Obama rule is that it vastly expands federal jurisdiction into state and local jurisdictions.”
The executive order will instruct the EPA and the Army Corps to go back to the drawing board and review and reconsider the rule, according to the officials.
It will also instruct the agencies, acting with the Justice Department, to petition the federal 6th circuit court of appeals to halt the regulation while the agencies conduct their review and reconsideration. The court is reviewing a major lawsuit against the regulation.
Meanwhile, a non-binding resolution was introduced in the House Monday evening by Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and 36 cosponsors expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Waters of the United States rule be withdrawn. The resolution is supportive of Trump’s order, although it does not expressly reference it.
“Since the Obama Administration first proposed their WOTUS rule, I’ve heard from farmers, small business owners, county and township officials, and state environmental officials who have been strongly opposed” to the regulation, said Gibbs.
“This resolution expresses just how important it is to rescind this EPA power grab and start from scratch, working with stakeholders to create a sensible rule that protects water quality and preserves the federal-state partnership of the Clean Water Act,” said Gibbs. “Farmers in Ohio and across the nation cannot afford more costly and burdensome regulations from a Washington bureaucracy that thinks it knows best.”
The environmental community, in anticipation of the executive order being issued this week, issued statements denouncing the presidential directive as a major step backward for the nation’s environment.
“Without the Clean Water Rule’s critical protections, innumerable small streams and wetlands that are essential for drinking water supplies, flood protection, and fish and wildlife habitat will be vulnerable to unregulated pollution, dredging and filling,” said Bob Irvin, the president of the American Rivers group.