The following is an excerpt from Blaze Media’s daily Capitol Hill Brief email newsletter:
The Trump administration is set to announce a final repeal of the Obama administration’s “Waters of the United States” rule on Thursday. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler made the announcement via an op-ed in the Des Moines Register Thursday morning.
The Obama-era regulation, put forward in 2015, drastically expanded which waterways are subject to federal control under the Clean Water Act to include man-made ditches and streams on private property that only have water in them following rain or snowmelt. It was swamped with litigation from the start. Last month, a federal judge ruled that the Obama administration’s rule violated federal law and sent it back to the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to be reworked.
Wheeler’s op-ed explains that the 2015 rule was “was so far-reaching that they needed to clarify in regulatory text that puddles were excluded.” This created a regulatory headache for farmers, land developers, and anyone confused about whether or not they now needed a federal permit to work on their own land.
President Trump vowed to kill the rule on the campaign trail, and in 2017, he directed the EPA to work on the “elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.” A proposed rule introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency back in December would relax the definition of what counts as waters that can be regulated. Republican senators tried to pass an amendment repealing the 2015 rule last year, but it failed.
Wheeler wrote that the “new, more precise definition would mean that farmers, land owners, and businesses will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit and more time upgrading aging infrastructure, building homes, creating jobs, and growing crops to feed our families.”
Update: After publication of this story, Blaze Media received the following statement from Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget:
This continues our effort to remove regulations that put absurd government standards on the American people. For years, this rule has been used by government agencies to punish farmers and private land owners with out-of-control fines and imprisonment for simply working to protect or better their property. This is another promise kept for our farmers and ranchers as President Trump continues to remove crushing regulations from the American people.