The American Spectator posted an article today updating the progress President Trump has made in undoing the “Waters of the United States (WOTUS)” rule put in place by the Obama administration. Under the guise of protecting the environment, the rule essentially gives the government control of your property if you have a mud puddle that shows up every Spring. The article notes that undoing something put in place by a federal bureaucracy is harder than reversing the direction of an aircraft carrier.
The article reports:
WOTUS represented one of the great power grabs in government history. By redefining “waters of the U.S.,” Obama-era officials asserted federal authority (virtual ownership) over almost all water in the country — not only large lakes, rivers, and oceans, but also streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds, parking lot puddles, and irrigation ditches. Nothing in the law justified such a broad sweep.
The new rule, released this week, is unfortunately still much broader than the law justifies. The Clean Water Act, which sought to control pollution of the nation’s major waterways, contains the phrase “waters of the U.S.” in 12 places. Of those, nine use the phrase “navigable waters of the U.S.,” and the other three refer specifically to barges and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. “Navigable waters” were defined as “waters of the U.S.,” meaning the terms are synonymous. There are no waters of the U.S. that are not navigable. Not in the law.
Nevertheless, the new rule continues to assert federal jurisdiction over waters never intended by Congress. On the plus side, it includes a final definition of what are, and are not, waters of the United States. It specifically disclaims federal jurisdiction over farms, ranches, irrigation ditches, stock ponds, wastewater treatment systems, and rainwater runoff. But in addition to “territorial seas and navigable waters,” the definition still includes “perennial and intermittent tributaries to those waters,” “certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments,” and “wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters.”
The article concludes:
Vague definitions lead to abuses, which are far too common in recent years. Most recently, the prosecution of Jack LaPant, whose decision to plant wheat on his California farm — with full approval of the Agriculture Department — resulted in over $5 million in fines. It seems the Corps of Engineers considers topsoil a pollutant. That’s about as nonsensical as an attempt by the EPA a few years ago to declare sunlight a pollutant. In LaPlant’s case, the Corps missed a vitally important detail: Congress specifically exempted “normal farming activities” from federal “jurisdiction.” That clearly includes planting wheat, especially on existing farms where wheat has been grown before.
We understand the natural instinct of all bureaucracies to seek more power. But like most farms, that one has no floating boats, and it is not “navigable water.” The Trump administration inherited the case but has not dismissed it or stopped the prosecution. It turns out that turning the bureaucracy, despite orders from the admiral, is actually much harder than turning an aircraft carrier.
The above story illustrates why we need to re-elect President Trump. Hopefully the WOTUS rule can be revisited so that America’s ability to grow food to feed its people is not impacted.