Thomas Gallatin / December 13, 2018

Trump EPA Rolls Back Another Obama Power Grab

Navigable waters is now clearly defined so as not to be Obama’s overly broad power grab.

Once again under President Donald Trump, some semblance of common sense and sane definitional language returned to the U.S. government. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its proposal for replacing Barack Obama’s 2015 power-grabbing redefinition of the Waters of the United States rule.

Under Obama, the EPA widely expanded the Clean Water Act’s definition of navigable waters to include pretty much every conceivable form of surface water — even irrigation ditches and rain-filled potholes. It was a clear and outrageous case of government overreach.

In announcing the change, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler explained, “Our proposal would replace the Obama EPA’s 2015 definition with one that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies. For the first time, we are clearly defining the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways. Our simpler and clearer definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”

Predictably, Democrats and environmentalists were quick to misrepresent the definitional change, calling it a “sickening gift to polluters,” the “dirty water rule,” or as Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) laughably insisted, “nothing short of senseless.” In reality, it was the 2015 EPA’s redefinition of “navigable waters” that was senseless.

The announcement garnered high praise from Republicans, however. “The 2015 rule was an expansion of federal power that used bureaucrat-speak to strip landowners of their rights and local governments of their ability to manage waters within their borders,” said Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA). “This new approach is the product of doing it the right way — openly, with the input of the American people.”

It should be normal to have clearly written rules with consistently limited definitions that any member of the public can understand without a lawyer. Regulations that are so overly broad that they prevent individuals from knowing if they are in compliance or not are bad, as they have the potential for abuse of power written all over them. Thankfully, the Trump EPA is seeking to clean things up.

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