President Trump’s latest Executive Order will scrap the EPA’s power over the nation’s waterways. Renamed the “Clean Water Rule,” the Obama regulation put the EPA’s corps of engineers in charge of just about every body of water, even watering holes and ditches!
Keeping another of his campaign promises, President Trump targeted this massive overreaching federal power grab. Farmers and ranchers should be thrilled at the news.
On Tuesday, he’s signing an executive order directing new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to start the lengthy process to repeal the Clean Water Rule.
Except here’s the catch: Rolling back this rule won’t actually be easy to do. By law, Pruitt has to go through the years-long federal rulemaking process and replace the Obama-era regulation with his own version — and then defend it in court as legally superior. And, as he’s about to find out, figuring out which bodies of water deserve protection is a maddeningly complex task that could take years and years.
Why? Because when Congress passed the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, it did a really bad job defining what “waters of the United States” meant.
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And it’s a subtle, complex question. For instance, the law is clear that major navigable rivers and lakes and the waterways connected to them should be protected. But what about streams that are only loosely connected? What about streams that are dry for part of the year?
The Supreme Court rulings in the 2000s only made matters more confusing.
In Rapanos v. United States, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the Clean Water Act extended to wetlands that “significantly affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of other covered waters.” On the other hand Justice Antonin Scalia, the Lion of the Law, disagreed, writing that the EPA’s rule only applied to wetlands “with a continuous surface connection” to navigable water. That’s a lot smaller. But it still isn’t clear which Justice’s definition controls.
So President Trump’s latest executive order starts the process to roll back this confusing, overreaching hot mess of a federal rule and the power of the EPA bureaucracy. It’ll take years, and the Establishment will fight him every step of the way. That’s why President Trump needs our help to scale back the federal government. This executive order is another good first step.
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- Agriculture Secretary, Special Interests Were Heavily Involved in Writing New Water Rule
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