WASHINGTON, D.C.— President Trump signed executive orders on Tuesday instructing the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule. The rule, which clarifies language in the 1972 Clean Waters Act, protects wetlands and streams from pollution.
Previously, only waters defined as “navigable” were included under the act’s protections.
The rule’s creation necessitated a years-long process by the EPA that garnered support from organizations like the American Sportfishing Association, B.A.S.S. and Trout Unlimited. However, it has been criticized by farmers, real estate developers and golf course owners for placing an economic burden on them. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Homebuilders Association have denounced the rule.
“It was a massive power grab,” Trump said, moments before signing the order. “Regulations and permits started treating our wonderful small farmers and small businesses as if they were a major industrial polluter. They treated them horribly.”
“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated in 2015.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, overturning the Clean Waters Rule will take time, and would likely involve another years-long EPA-led process to create new rules.
Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood released a statement following the news:
“The Clean Water Rule was finalized in 2015 after more than one million public comments and extensive scientific review. It provides protection to streams and rivers including 60 percent of the stream miles in the U.S. that flow seasonally.
Protecting these headwaters is important not only to anglers, but also to the one in three Americans whose drinking water comes from small seasonal streams.”
“The Trump Administration can change direction on this Rule,” said Wood, “But they can’t change the fact that clean water is not a political issue. It is a basic right of every American. Gravity works cheap, and it never takes a day off. The Administration cannot stop water flowing downhill—and we all live downstream.”
Trout Unlimited joined AFFTA, The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Isaak Walton League, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and The National Wildlife Federation in a joint release criticizing the order, citing the nearly $50-billion annual contribution and 828,000 jobs created by the sport fishing industry as reliant on clean water.
Forbes called the order “bad news for anglers and hunters.”
“The EPA’s so-called ‘Waters of the United States’ rule is one of the worst examples of federal regulation,” said President Trump. “And it has truly run amok, and is one of the rules most strongly opposed by farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers all across our land.”