The Environmental Protection Agency took its first step Tuesday to comply with a February executive order from President Donald Trump that would narrow the scope of waterways covered by a federal rule imposed by the Obama administration.
The Clean Water Rule, also known as the “Waters of the United States” rule, allows any body of water — including streams and ditches — that ultimately feeds into a major body of water to fall under the purview of the federal government.
Farmers and ranchers have opposed the 2015 edict from the Obama administration as an intrusion on the control of their land. Proponents say the law is essential to protect the nation’s drinking water. It has been argued in various courts for much of the past two years.
“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.
“This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public,” he said.
In his executive order, Trump used a 2006 opinion by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as a guideline for federal policy. That opinion said only “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing” waters or wetlands with a connection via the surface to navigable bodies of water fall under the Clean Water Rule. That was a much narrower definition than the one used by the Obama administration.
“It’s a horrible, horrible rule. Has sort of a nice name, but everything else is bad,” Trump said in February when he signed the order that led to the EPA’s action this week.
“The Clean Water Act says that the EPA can regulate navigable waters, meaning waters that truly affect interstate commerce. But a few years ago, the EPA decided that navigable waters can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land, or any place else that they decide,” he added.
The EPA will soon publish a draft rule for public comment, and then move forward to adopt a final rule.
“Farmers and ranchers across this country are cheering,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, calling the Obama-era rule “a federal land grab designed to put a straitjacket on farming and private businesses across this nation.”
The action was also supported by Republicans representing states in the western part of the country.
“Today marks the beginning of restoring private property rights while protecting our environment,” said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. “Out-of-state D.C. bureaucrats shouldn’t impose regulations that hurt Montana farmers, ranchers and landowners.”
The Obama-era rule “would have put backyard ponds, puddles and prairie potholes under Washington’s control,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., “I applaud the Trump administration for working to remove this indefensible regulation.”
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Source: Western Journalism