White House

Trump targets Obama-era water regulation in new executive order

President Trump: The EPA has abused its rules

 

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday directing a review of a controversial Obama-era water rule that gave the federal government broad regulatory authority over rivers, streams and wetlands.

The order was among several items, including two bills, Trump signed Tuesday ahead of his address to a joint session of Congress. 

The regulation Trump targeted is known as the "waters of the United States" rule. Covering 60 percent of U.S. waterways, it included smaller creeks, wetlands and other water bodies for protection under the Clean Water Act -- but was met with resistance from property owners, farmers and others. 

A senior White House official said the problem with the rule is that it "vastly expands jurisdiction into state and local areas and vastly expands federal jurisdiction over state waters. " 

Trump’s order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to review it.

At the signing, Trump also cited its impact on jobs.

“We're going to free up our country and it's going to be done in a very environmental and positive environmental way, I will tell you that,” Trump said Tuesday. “[We will] create millions of jobs, so many jobs are delayed for so many years that it's unfair to everybody.”

Congressional Republicans, who have tried to repeal the water rule, cheered the order Tuesday. 

"I welcome President Trump’s review of this rule and hope it will be repealed once and for all. The livelihoods of America’s farmers, ranchers, and cattlemen are at stake,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.

Trump's order asks the EPA and Army Corps to look specifically at a 2006 opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the jurisdictional scope of the Clean Water Act. Scalia wrote a plurality opinion in a split decision – an opinion that would have reduced the scope of the act by defining “waters of the United States” as covering only permanent, standing or continuous flowing bodies of water.

Democrats and environmental groups say the rule safeguards clean drinking water and clarifies confusion over which wetlands and streams are protected, amid uncertainty surrounding two Supreme Court rulings on the subject.

The order also instructs the attorney general to suspend ongoing court action in response to a number of legal challenges against the rule. The Ohio-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had stayed the rule, thereby putting it on hold.

Also Tuesday, Trump signed an order moving the HBCU (Historically Black College and Universities) offices back from the Department of Education to the White House – which the administration says will allow the HBCU to be a partner in Trump’s agenda of creating jobs and making inner cities safe.

He also signed the “Inspire Act” – which encourages NASA to have women participating in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to pursue careers in those areas, and another bill promoting women in entrepreneurship. That bill encourages the National Science Foundation to use existing programs to improve and support employment of women.

The Associated Press and Fox News’ Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.