Trump Administration scuttles Obama-era WOTUS “Waters of the United States” rule

By rolling back Obama’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, the administration has put an end to the biggest power grab in the 48-year history of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewWhy just WOTUS? Why not, while we are at it, scuttle the entire EPA so its employees can get real jobs (defined as jobs that produce things of economic value)?

by Bonner Cohen, Ph. D. via CFACT

A Handbook for Ranch Managers Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference ManualIn a significant victory for farmers, ranchers, and other landowners, the Trump administration December 11 pulled the plug on an Obama-era regulatory scheme that would have subjected millions of acres of private land to federal zoning.

By rolling back Obama’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, the administration has put an end to the Combat Shooter's Handbook Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institute The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfitsbiggest power grab in the 48-year history of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Obama-era rule was sold as an effort to “clarify” the federal government’s jurisdiction over bodies of water under the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA), which granted EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over “navigable waters of the United States.”

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3)    Over the years, questions arose over whether Washington also had jurisdiction over bodies of water, which may not be navigable themselves, but which are adjacent to, or have some connection to, navigable waters. The Supreme Court’s 2006 Rapanos v. United States decision, failed to resolve the issue, with Justice Anthony Kennedy infamously opining that federal jurisdiction extended to such waters provided they had a “significant nexus” to navigable waters.

The Power Grab

What constituted a “significant nexus” was anyone guess, leaving landowners, municipalities, businesses, and just about everyone else completely in the dark. Eager to take advantage of a murky situation and beef up EPA’s enforcement authority, the Obama administration in 2015 proposed “clarifying” the issue by greatly expanding EPA’s jurisdiction to include ditches, ponds, groundwater, and even “ephemeral” waters (those that form only after rainfall). The rule would have forced farmers, ranchers, and other landowners to obtain permits from EPA if they wanted to make any modifications to their property. A host or organizations sued EPA, and a federal judge ordered a stay on the rule in 24 states.

Having vowed to kill the rule during the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump issued an executive order in February 2017 directing EPA to carry out the “elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.” Trump’s first EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, tried to delay implementation of the Obama WOTUS rule, but a U.S. district court in South Carolina invalidated the delay in August 2018.

Now, the Trump administration has its own plan for untangling the jurisdictional mess that has surrounded the regulation of waterways for decades.

What is and What is not Subject to Federal Regulation

“Our proposal would replace the Obama EPA’s 2015 definition with one that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies,” said Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. “For the first time, we are defining the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways.”

Under the Trump proposal, the federal government, for the first time, has divided navigable waters into six categories:

  • traditional navigable waters (rivers, bays, the Great Lakes, etc.);
  • waterways connected to navigable waters, including tributaries;
  • certain navigable ditches used for commercial shipping, such as the Erie Canal;
  • lakes and ponds that contribute to navigable waterways;
  • impoundments of jurisdictional waterways; and
  • wetlands adjacent to navigable waterways through “direct subsurface connection.”

Trump’s WOTUS proposal also clearly states what EPA and the Corps of Engineers will not regulate. These include “features that only include water during or in response to rainfall (e.g., ephemeral features); groundwater; many ditches, including most roadside or farm ditches; prior converted cropland; storm water control features; and waste treatment systems.”

Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler, who has been nominated for the top job at the agency by President Trump, points out that most bodies of water not covered under the new proposal are still subject to state protection. “We don’t need to have the dual protection and the dual requirements and permits at both state and federal levels,” he said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show (Washington Times, Dec. 12).

The difference between the Obama and Trump approaches can not be understated. A 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation study, for example, found that 99% of Pennsylvania would be subject to the Obama WOTUS rule.

“This new rule will empower farmers and ranchers to comply with the law, protect our water resources, and productively work their land without having to hire and army of lawyers and consultants,” said farm bureau president Zippy Duvall (Washington Times, Dec. 12).

The fight is far from over, with environmental groups expected to bring suit against EPA and the Corps.

There will be a 60-day public comment period that will last until mid-February 2019.


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A Handbook for Ranch ManagersA Handbook for Ranch Managers.  In keeping with the “holistic” idea that the land, the livestock, the people and the money should be viewed as a single integrated whole: Part I deals with the management of the natural resources. Part II covers livestock production and Part III deals with the people and the money. Not only would this book make an excellent basic text for a university program in Ranch Management, no professional ranch manager’s reference bookshelf should be without it. It is a comprehensive reference manual for managing the working ranch. The information in the appendices and extensive bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.

You might also be interested in the supplement to this Handbook: Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual.

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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1 Response to Trump Administration scuttles Obama-era WOTUS “Waters of the United States” rule

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:

    Why just WOTUS? Why not, while we are at it, scuttle the entire EPA so its employees can get real jobs (defined as jobs that produce things of economic value)?


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