CEI Praises EPA Decision to Repeal Disastrous Waters of the U.S. Rule


This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved to repeal the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. This rule expanded federal oversight and power over U.S. “navigable waters” to apply to any land occupied by water at the time, such as seasonal pools or drainage channels.

Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) experts have argued against this policy change for years and applauds the EPA for rolling back this harmful example of executive overreach.

CEI’s Director of the Center of Energy and Environment Myron Ebell praised the decision:

CEI applauds EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for assisting President Trump in the fulfillment of his campaign commitment to withdraw the disastrous WOTUS rule.  Reverting to the previous wetlands rule will prevent the abuses of property rights and endless obstacles to development from increasing dramatically. In preparing a new rule, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers should further limit federal jurisdiction to those wetlands that are directly connected to the navigable waters of the United States. Shrinking federal jurisdiction would relieve many landowners from the threat of regulatory taking of the use of their land and would also reduce the number of lengthy delays in permitting resource, development, and infrastructure projects in many parts of the country.

Distinguished Fellow at CEI’s Center of Energy and Environment R.J. Smith further explained the issue:

Hopefully, the Trump administration’s repeal of the EPA’s WOTUS rule and its staggering expansion of the Clean Water Act’s mandate to protect “navigable waters” will return federal authority to its proper and constitutional scope, rather than the misuse of the Clean Water Act to regulate, control, and take private property. 

The usurpation of power over state regulatory authority and private property rights has led to major regulatory nightmares all across the country. In order to conduct the most elementary of necessary land-use actions, farmers, ranchers, developers, home builders, businesses, and private landowners have to run a gauntlet of lengthy, costly, and uncertain regulatory demands to receive a permit or otherwise face enormous fines and penalties. Thus, endlessly delaying necessary activities and raising costs substantially, with zero compensation for the taking of private property.

It is past time for Congress to revisit the Clean Water Act and amend it to state clearly and unambiguously that “navigable waters” means “navigable.” This means for commercial ships, tugboats, and barges, instead of the WOTUS definition that expanded to nearly everything but rubber duckies. Creeks, streams, and run-off ditches or sewers that fill up during a rainstorm are not “navigable waters.”

CEI’s Vice President for Strategy Iain Murray called the rule an “unprecedented power grab”:

It twists the plain language of the Clean Water Act, which regulates the “navigable waters” of the United States, out of all recognition, to give the Obama administration powers over any land that might at any time be occupied by water, such as seasonal pools or drainage channels. Your use of your own property could become subject to veto by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers — and you might not even know it until they stick you with $75,000 a day in fines. And if the rule itself is an abuse of power, the way in which it was finalized is just as outrageous.

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