White House moves to re­scind Obama-era wa­ters reg­u­la­tion.

Reg­u­la­tion has been top tar­get for EPA head Pruitt

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion Tues­day moved to re­scind the con­tro­ver­sial “Wa­ters of the U.S.” rule, an Obama-era reg­u­la­tion that gave Wash­ing­ton broad pow­ers over streams and other small bod­ies of wa­ter across the coun­try.

The rule, put for­ward in 2015 but sub­se­quently stayed by the Supreme Court be­fore go­ing into ef­fect, was one of EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt’s top tar­gets when he took the helm at the agency, and re­vok­ing it marks the lat­est step in an on­go­ing ef­fort to roll back many of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tions.

President Trump ear­lier this year signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der di­rect­ing Mr. Pruitt to re­view the rule, and with Tues­day’s step, the EPA says it’s fi­nal­ized that re­view and will strike the reg­u­la­tion from the books out­right.

“We are tak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ac­tion to re­turn power to the states and pro­vide reg­u­la­tory cer­tainty to our na­tion’s farm­ers and busi­nesses,” Mr. 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.”

The ac­tion would re­turn EPA au­thor­ity over wa­ter­ways to where it stood prior to the “Wa­ters of the U.S.” rule. Un­der the Clean Wa­ter Act, the agency has ju­ris­dic­tion over “nav­i­ga­ble” wa­ters, au­thor­ity meant to en­sure that the coun­try’s drink­ing wa­ter sup­plies aren’t pol­luted.

But supporters of the rule have said that orig­i­nal def­i­ni­tion wasn’t spe­cific enough, and al­lowed for pol­lu­tion to run from streams and other small wa­ters into larger bod­ies that sup­ply drink­ing wa­ter.

Tues­day’s ac­tion, crit­ics say, di­rectly puts mil­lions of Amer­i­cans in dan­ger.

“With the roll­back of the Clean Wa­ter Rule, Scott Pruitt and President Trump are poised to let in­dus­try and agri­cul­ture treat much of the na­tion’s drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply like an ash­tray, in­stead of a vi­tal nat­u­ral re­source ev­ery sin­gle Amer­i­can re­lies on,” said Scott Faber, se­nior vice president of gov­ern­ment af­fairs at the En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group. “Amer­i­cans are pay­ing the price of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s near-con­stant as­sault on public health and the en­vi­ron­ment, but it’s a free ride for pol­luters, who face no con­se­quences for con­tam­i­nat­ing our drink­ing wa­ter.”

EWG and other en­vi­ron­men­tal groups ar­gue that the roll­back is dan­ger­ous be­cause mil­lions of Amer­i­cans’ drink­ing wa­ter flows through small streams, and that the “Wa­ters of the U.S.” rule was the only way to en­sure that wa­ter would be free from pol­lu­tion.

Op­po­nents of the rule — in­clud­ing agri­cul­tural and busi­ness leaders, along with vir­tu­ally all Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton and in states across the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in the West — have said the reg­u­la­tion amounted to noth­ing more than a power grab by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

They said that un­der a strict read­ing of the rule, the EPA could have had ju­ris­dic­tion over small pud­dles, ponds and ditches on farm­land.

“The West has fi­nally won in the bat­tle over the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s WOTUS rule,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said in a state­ment. “This reg­u­la­tion would have been a dis­as­ter for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in the West and across the coun­try, giv­ing Wash­ing­ton near-to­tal con­trol over wa­ter re­sources. The liveli­hoods of Amer­i­can farm­ers, ranch­ers, and en­trepreneurs were at stake.”

Mr. Pruitt and Army Corps of En­gi­neers of­fi­cials say they’ll fi­nal­ize new rules clar­i­fy­ing the lengths of EPA’s au­thor­ity of wa­ter­ways across the coun­try.

Supporters of the rule say such clar­i­fi­ca­tion is des­per­ately needed be­cause Tues­day’s ac­tion will re­sult in con­fu­sion as to the bounds of fed­eral power over wa­ter.

“To­day’s move to re­scind the [Wa­ters of the U.S.] cre­ates more risk for river health and more un­cer­tainty for fed­eral agen­cies, landown­ers and com­mu­ni­ties. By toss­ing out years of sci­en­tific study and public in­put, Scott Pruitt and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion are mud­dy­ing the very wa­ters the [rule] sought to clar­ify.” said Jo Ellen Darcy, a board mem­ber of the ad­vo­cacy group Amer­i­can Rivers.


EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt was ordered to re­view the con­tro­ver­sial “Wa­ters of the U.S.” rule by President Trump in an ex­ec­u­tive or­der this year.

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