Trump Administration Plans EPA Revamp

The president signed an executive order to start the process of unraveling the Waters of the U.S. rule.

March 01, 2017

WASHINGTON – Change is in the wind for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). President Donald Trump’s administration is moving forward with its proposals to drastically overhaul the agency, Politico reports.

Yesterday, the first salvo was fired when the president signed an executive order to jumpstart the long procedure to break apart the controversial Waters of the U.S. regulation. The order instructs the agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “review and reconsider the rule,” according to a senior White House official. The order also requests that Attorney General Jeff Sessions ask the court to hold any cases currently pending. 

The White House official indicated that the review would “take a long time to get through,” which means nothing will be settled as of yet. “You’ll just have to do sort of a case-by-case assessment as permit issues arise,” the official said.

The Trump administration is also looking into the legal interpretation on which the rule is based: the 2006 case, Rapanos v. United States, that dealt with which wetlands the Clean Water Act protected. The U.S. Supreme Court had a 4-1-4 ruling on the case split nearly along conservative and liberal lines. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s moderate ruling set a separate test for when a body of water should be under the rule. 

Now the current administration is asking both the EPA and the Army Corps “to consider thinking about Justice Scalia’s interpretation of navigable waters,” which was more restrictive, the White House official said. However, this doesn’t mean the changes will be a done deal. The Trump administration must adhere to the same rulemaking processes that created the Waters of the U.S. rule, and will likely come across legal opposition from some states and environmental activists.