EPA to formally request repeal of 'Waters of the USA' rule

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army have formally published notice that the regulation known as "Waters of the USA" will be repealed.  The rule was tied up in court, but the EPA's notification will make those court cases moot.

The step was expected, but now the clock is actually ticking.  Groups now have 30 days to comment on the withdrawal of the rule, after which time it's expected that the EPA will deep-six the regulation.

Waters of the USA was an Obama-era idea to give the EPA immense regulatory authority over almost all creeks, streams, rivers, and tidal waters in the country.

Washington Times:

"We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. "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."

The proposed repeal comes days after the Bureau of Land Management launched the process of rescinding the 2015 rule placing federal restrictions on hydraulic fracturing on public lands.

Rolling back the regulations essentially would codify the status quo, given that neither the fracking nor the water rule has been implemented.

In separate proceedings, two federal courts placed holds on the regulations last year pending the outcome of lawsuits filed by states, energy trade associations and others.

In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit stayed the water rule in reaction to a legal challenge brought by 31 states and a coalition of nearly 100 GOP House and Senate members.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat elected in November, withdrew from the lawsuit in April.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, a fierce critic of Obama administration rule, lauded the Trump administration for acting to rescind the regulations.

"This long-overdue withdrawal is a win for farmers, states, communities and private property rights," Mr. Bishop said in a statement. "I want to thank the Trump Administration for their steadfast efforts to foster a level of rationality in environmental policy and begin detangling the web of crushing rules and regulations across the federal government."

Mr. Trump's executive order calls for keeping navigable waters clean "while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution," said the EPA statement.

Although the water rule has yet to take effect, environmental groups have insisted that the effort to dismantle the federal regulations places the health of Americans at risk.

I would say American liberty was far more at risk because of this rule than the health of citizens.

It's something of a novel approach for liberal groups to challenge the rollback of a regulation that was never implemented.  So the challenge will be directed at the president's executive order.  As we've seen, some federal judges are not averse to overturning an order from the Executive Branch on the thinnest of grounds, which means the challenge is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

It's hard to imagine the nightmare for farmers and businesses this regulation would have caused.  It would virtually destroy the foundations of private property rights, giving the government veto power over the decisions of property owners of what to do with even the most insignificant running waters on their property. 

The Trump administration is dismantling Obama's overweening executive legacy piece by piece. 

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