Executive order to undo US water rule hailed as a victory for miners
Last updated 1/18/2018 at 7:41pm
With the signing of a presidential order that begins the process of undoing the Waters of the United States rule, President Donald Trump continues to make good on his promise to roll back regulations that are stifling economic development.
“The EPA’s so-called ‘Waters of the United States’ rule is one of the worst examples of federal regulation, and it has truly run amok,” Trump said during the Feb. 28 signing of the order.
The executive call to dismantle WOTUS was hailed as a victory for the U.S. mining sector, which would have been hit with higher costs and even longer permitting delays under the Obama administration rule.
“It is encouraging to see the administration prioritize actions that balance the importance of environmental protections with both states’ authority and the regulatory certainty that is required to support a thriving economy,” said National Mining Association President Hal Quinn.
Unveiled in 2015, WOTUS substantially expands waters that fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by adding tributaries and neighboring wetlands upstream of waters already covered by federal law.
Upon signing the executive order to roll back WOTUS, Trump called the rule a “massive power grab” by the EPA.
Tributaries under WOTUS would have included anything that remotely resembled a stream – a bed, bank, and ordinary high-water mark – even if it does not flow year-round. Nearby waters include wetlands and other watery features within 1,500 feet of navigable waters and sometimes such features within 4,000 feet of high-tide or high water mark of a stream also would have been covered under the rule.
Even if a small portion of one of these neighboring wet features fall within the guidelines, the entire body falls under the new WOTUS rule, regardless of its connection to downstream waters.
For Alaska – with its plentiful streams, river, rivulets, coasts and wetlands – this means that vast swaths of lands would have been regulated by the state would have been subject to the federal Clean Water Act and the regulatory agencies that administer it.
“The Waters of the United States or ‘WOTUS’ rule is one of the most burdensome, overreaching rules imposed by the Obama administration—a regulation with such broad reach that it could be used to impact and delay almost any development project anywhere in Alaska,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said.
Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, both are looking forward to the dismantling of WOTUS.
“This new order signals a return to the rule of law and prioritizes environmental protection, keeping our waters clean without running rough shod over the Clean Water Act and our economy,” said Sullivan. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to return to a balanced and statutorily based implementation of our environmental laws.”
Trump, it seems, agreed.
“With today’s executive order, I’m directing the EPA to take action, paving the way for the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule,” the President said before signing the order.