“Review” of EPA’s Waters’ Rule Seen as Welcome News

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump gave thousands of Wisconsin farmers, ranchers, and landowners reprieve from one of the most-poorly thought out regulations of the Obama Administration. With the issuing of an executive order, Trump ordered a “review” of the 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, leading many to believe the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers will eventually have to withdraw the rule all together.

The bureaucratic rule gave the EPA sweeping abilities to modify the definition of “navigable waters; ” one which included a wide variety of sources of standing water, many of which never poured into other bodies of water.

The contentious rule had been fought for years by farmers, ranchers, real estate developers and other industries, which complained it invited heavy-handed bureaucrats to burden their businesses with onerous restrictions and fines for minor violations.

Obama’s EPA argued that such claims were exaggerated and misrepresented the realities of the enforcement process of a rule that promised to create substantially cleaner waterways and with them, healthier habitats for threatened species of wildlife.

The directive to undo the clean water initiative is expected to be closely followed by another aimed at unraveling the Obama administration’s ambitious plan to fight climate change by curbing power plant emissions.

The move was heralded by Republican members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation, many of whom had been fighting its implementation for years.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville): 

“The Obama administration’s sweeping WOTUS rule has been a disaster for Americans in the West. This regulation is a federal power grab of epic proportions. It takes management authority away from the people who depend upon water to make a living. That’s why the House voted to repeal it last year. I welcome President Trump’s review of this rule and hope it will be repealed once and for all. The livelihoods of America’s farmers, ranchers, and cattlemen are at stake.”

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh): 

“I along with farmers, manufacturers and other Wisconsinites we rely on to create good paying jobs thank President Trump for taking swift and decisive action to reconsider and potentially dismantle this ill-conceived regulation. Taking steps to roll back this harmful regulation is a good sign President Trump is focused on growing the economy and creating more opportunity for Wisconsinites and all Americans.”

Along with lawmakers, the Trump administration move was heralded by agricultural groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and its president Zippy Duvall:

“EPA has too long been characterized by regulatory overreach that disregards the positive conservation efforts of farmers and threatens their very way of life. Today’s action is as much a beginning as an end, and there is much work to do to ensure that any revised rule is transparent and fair for America’s farmers and ranchers.”

WOTUS has long been controversial; not just from a legal standpoint, but from an engineering standpoint as well. This was made clear when a 2015 leaked memo from the Army Corps of Engineers openly stated the rule was virtually “unenforceable.” Nonetheless, deeply committed bureaucrats within the Obama Administration continued on unabated.

What Tuesday’s actions by the Trump Administration’s does is allow for individual states to govern their own waterways without the heavy-handed interference of a top-down, one-size-fits-all regulation from the EPA. But for landowners, it’s a much needed reprieve from overzealous government regulation.