News Feature | February 23, 2017

Trump Takes Aim At WOTUS

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

donald reg new (3)

WOTUS is on its way out.

The “Water of the United States” rule (WOTUS) was the definitive water-policy achievement of the Obama administration. Proponents said it clarified which waterways could be regulated by the federal government under the Clean Water Act. Jurisdiction under the law had become obscured by court decisions, WOTUS supporters said.

The rule has been in Republican crosshairs for years. President Trump strongly opposed it during his campaign. The agriculture industry and the GOP say the rule amounts to government overreach.

WOTUS is currently unenforceable due to court action. “A court stayed [WOTUS] days after it was finalized,” E&E News reported. “The Supreme Court agreed last month to take up the challenge brought by more than 30 states and many industry and farm groups,” the publication said.

Now Trump is getting ready to do away with the policy. The Washington Post reported this week that Trump is preparing an executive order to kill the regulation.

The Post reported:

[The order] will instruct the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to revamp a 2015 rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule, that applies to 60 percent of the water bodies in the country. That regulation was issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gives the federal government authority over not only major water bodies but also the wetlands, rivers and streams that feed into them. It affects development as well as some farming operations on the grounds that these activities could pollute the smaller or intermittent bodies of water that flow into major ones.

Trump’s actions could have a near-term impact on the utility industry, even if the battle over dismantling the rule may take some time, The Post reported:

While any move to undo these policies will spark new legal battles and entail work within the agencies that could take as long as a year and a half to finalize, the orders could affect investment decisions within the utility, mining, agriculture and real estate sectors, as well as activities on the ground.

According to Bloomberg, Trump is also preparing executive action “to rescind the Clean Power Plan.”

Image credit: "Donald Trump," Gage Skidmore © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/