Response from the Competitive Enterprise Institute on President Trump’s Executive Order on the Waters of the United States


CEI has for years advocated for a reining in of the overreaching EPA authority over waters across the country. President Trump’s executive order to revisit the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS) resonates with CEI’s view that WOTUS is an unprecedented power grab.

CEI’s Director for the Center of Energy and Environment Myron Ebell said of the order today, “Withdrawing the WOTUS Rule is a good start, and President Trump is to be commended for keeping this important campaign promise.  However, the federal government’s jurisdictional claims over wetlands under the Clean Water Act were far too broad before the WOTUS Rule.  New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt should direct EPA to develop a new wetlands rule that keeps federal jurisdiction within its constitutional limits.  Restricting federal control to the navigable waters of the U. S. will end the widespread abuses of property rights over many decades.” 

As CEI’s Iain Murray previously wrote: WOTUS “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.”

CEI’s William Yeatman explains how EPA Administrator Pruitt can and should act to reform WOTUS:

“An unprecedented and diverse number of states are suing the [EPA] over its actions. For example, both of the EPA’s signature regulations—the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule—were challenged by more than half of all states participating in 12 lawsuits against major Obama-era regulations. This is not normal, and it evinces a troubling unwillingness of EPA to accommodate state interests. In this context, Pruitt has an opportunity to restore a proper working relationship between the states and EPA on environmental policymaking.

 “Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA should publish a legal memorandum, perhaps even after notice and comment, that affirms the agency’s intent to follow through on the Supreme Court’s direction that the agency should respect state decision-making.”