Trump WOTUS revisions fail to deliver protection, PLF says

Spring Vernal Pool in Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (California)

The Trump administration’s proposed revisions of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Act fail to protect landowners from being treated like industrial polluters under the Clean Water Act, said the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a non-profit legal foundation that filed one of the first challenges to WOTUS in July 2015.

In February 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order instructing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army to revise the overly broad definition of “navigable waters” under the Waters of the United States rule, PLF said.

“The goal of Trump’s order was to protect ordinary Americans engaged in routine activities on their property from being treated like industrial polluters under the Clean Water Act,” the foundation said in a statement. “But today’s proposal fails to deliver on that promise. The proposal takes the obvious step to clarify that roadside ditches are not federal commercial waterways. But it still regulates small, intermittent or seasonal drainages on private property, even when that property is far removed from navigable waters. It also regulates wetlands no matter how small or distant from actually navigable rivers and lakes.”

“While this is an improvement from EPA’s unreasonable and illegal 2015 definition of navigable waters, it still falls well outside the Supreme Court’s plurality opinion defining the limits of Clean Water Act jurisdiction,” PLF Senior Attorney Tony Francois said. “Despite assurances that the new definition would clarify what is regulated, landowners will still face uncertainty, high consulting costs and aggressive assertions of jurisdiction from agency enforcers. Army and EPA bureaucrats still have far too much power to regulate private property, and they will continue to abuse that power without meaningful reforms.”

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