Trump moves to repeal Obama’s Clean Water Rule

Now that Trump has taken this first step, further action against the EPA is likely to follow.

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Trump wants to knock clean water regulations back four decades. Harshaw Chemical Company discharges waste water into the Cuyahoga River, 1973. Image credit: Frank J. Aleksandrowicz/Wikimedia Commons

This afternoon, Trump will sign yet another executive order, this one ordering a formal review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, which protects streams and wetlands that communities depend on.

The order is Trump’s first aimed at the EPA and Obama’s environmental agenda. It is also the beginning of the process to repeal the Clean Water Rule, fulfilling one of President Donald Trump’s major campaign promises.

The Clean Water Rule aims to ensure protection for the nation’s public health and aquatic resources by clarifying the scope of ‘‘waters of the United States’’ protected under the Clean Water Act.

While Trump’s executive order does not abrogate the rule directly (which would require a formal regulatory process), it does order the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to formally review the rule and could lead to its abolition.

Opponents to the rule claim that it would require the acquisition of costly permits for land uses due to the broad definitions used, and could put almost any body of water under federal control.

“The problem with the Obama administration’s [Waters of the United States] rule is that it vastly expands federal jurisdiction into state and local areas of land use,” the administration official said. “It vastly expands federal jurisdiction over state waters and we think, in looking at it, it could potentially violate the Supreme Court decisions.”

The Clean Water Rule is currently in legal limbo. On October 9, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stayed the Clean Water Rule nationwide while several lawsuits challenging it can make their way through court.

One of those lawsuits challenging the Clean Water Rule was led by none other than Scott Pruitt, Trump’s head of the EPA. These legal proceedings will be put on hold while the formal review takes place.

The signing of this new order comes on the heels of Trump’s call for severe funding cuts to the EPA and the State Department to fuel the United States’ war machine, and taken together, these actions do not bode well for the EPA or the environment.

Now that Trump has taken this first step, further action against the EPA is likely to follow. One of those actions could be a move to repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aims at reducing carbon pollution from power plants.

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