Sean Hackbarth Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


June 28, 2017


The work of reversing President Obama’s regulatory overreach continues.

The Trump administration announced it will repeal the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Army and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are proposing a new rule that would rescind the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule and “re-codify the regulatory text” that existed before its adoption in 2015, according to a press release obtained by The Wall Street Journal that will be sent out Tuesday afternoon.

That action, the agencies contend, “would provide certainty in the interim” while a new rule-making process is undertaken.

Property developers, chemical manufacturers and oil-and -gas producers also have voiced opposition to the rule, which they argue is an intrusion on property owners’ rights and an impediment to economic growth.

Mr. Trump, who agreed with that view, signed an executive order in late February directing the EPA to review WOTUS and to do so based on a much narrower interpretation of “navigable waters” as outlined in a 2006 Supreme Court opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia.

The rule expanded the definition of federally-regulated waters so broadly that ditches, canals, collection ponds, and isolated wetlands far from “navigable waters” were covered. In order to build or make modifications on their land, farmers, ranchers, and businesses would need to hire consultants and lawyers to get costly federal permits.

Good thing WOTUS is tied up in federal court and not being enforced.

William Kovacs, U.S. Chamber senior vice president of Environment, Technology, & Regulatory Affairs, welcomed the decision:

The final WOTUS rule issued by the last administration was unworkable, a fact acknowledged by courts around the country, and amounted to a massive grab of regulatory authority by an EPA that was overreaching.

We look forward to working with Administrator Pruitt and his team to craft a rule that protects public health and the environment, while giving clarity and certainty to our nation’s farmers and job creators.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt vowed to craft a new regulation “in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

The WOTUS fiasco reminds us how broken the federal regulatory process is. So much wasted time and energy could have been avoided if we had a more modern way of crafting regulations, like the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA).

If the RAA were law, small businesses, local governments, and other affected parties could make EPA defend its rationale for WOTUS and the economic and scientific analysis supporting it before it had the force of law. The RAA would result in higher-quality rules, more tailored to fixing the problems they’re intended to solve.

Senators who want real, substantial regulatory reform that avoids overbearing rules like WOTUS should support the RAA.

About the authors

Sean Hackbarth

Sean Hackbarth

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.

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