The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers [official websites] on Tuesday released a proposal [text] that will rescind the 2015 Clean Water Rule [text] implemented by the Obama administration. The so-called Water of the United States Rule (WOTUS) was proposed in 2014 as a means to clarify the legal jurisdiction of the federal government under the Clean Water Act [text]. The rule expanded [Reuters report] the definition of waterways to include streams, rivers, wetlands and other bodies. Those who opposed WOTUS, such as members of the agriculture and energy industries, felt that the expansion granted the federal government too much power. In a press release [text] from the EPA, administrator Scott Pruitt said:
We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.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.
Advocacy groups, such as Environment America and Environmental Law and Policy Center [advocacy websites], have expressed concern that the proposal will lead to increased pollution and the contamination of the nation’s waterways.
A priority of the Trump administration has been to roll back regulations and alter the country’s energy and environmental policies, which the current administration claims have hurt jobs and the growth of the economy. In March the Trump administration asked [JURIST report] the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to postpone ruling on the Obama administration’s climate change regulations. This request came after President Donald Trump signed [JURIST report] an executive order rolling back the Obama administration policies. The Clean Power Plan [text, PDF] was challenged during Obama’s presidency by certain states and industry groups that rely on the coal industry. In February Trump signed legislation [JURIST report] that rolled back coal mining regulations implemented by the Obama administration. Also that week the president signed a repeal of regulations [JURIST report] that required energy companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. Shortly after his inauguration, Trump signed orders advancing the construction [JURIST report] of both the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline.