Borrowing from President Gerald Ford, the long national WOTUS nightmare is finally over. The Trump administration has repealed this Obama-era regulatory overreach. Landowners across the nation are exhaling as these regulatory takings tentacles begin to relax. May the WOTUS rule do the opposite of rest in peace.
Most Americans want clean water and air. But they don’t want Big Government reading straightforward terms like “navigable waters” under the Waters of the United States rule as applying to trickles, dry stream beds and landlocked ponds and bogs. Conservatives for Property Rights certainly supports this reasonable, responsible revision of overregulation that’s inflicted loss of private lands by bureaucratic fiat.
You know the WOTUS land grab needs reining in to the common-sense zone when the liberal Brookings Institution calls it “[o]ne of the Obama administration's most controversial environmental rules.” You bet it is, because the WOTUS rule used the already regulation-tilted Clean Water Act to bury the Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause.
The absurd lengths to which the EPA-Corps of Engineers Queen of Hearts ran with the repealed WOTUS definition have come to light in regulatory roundtables the Small Business Administration — the federal agency on the side of the angels — has convened.
At SBA’s Tampa roundtable, SBA reports, “Floridians are particularly interested in the rule due to the overabundance of wetlands that may flow into Waters of the United States. Attendees spoke about the need for a clear definition of what is considered an adjacent wetland, meaning those wetlands that are adjacent to a water of the United States and thus under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The previous rule suggested a distance measurement for determining those wetlands that would be subject to the requirements. Instead, the current proposed rule defines adjacent wetlands as those that have a “direct hydrologic surface connection” to a jurisdictional water. This means that without an actual connection, the adjacent wetlands would be exempt.” Imagine that; water that’s actually connected to a bonafide U.S. water that has an actual connection to interstate commerce.
And WOTUS reform isn’t the only salutary, deregulatory action that’s bolstering private property rights and pumping vitality into America’s economic engine. The Environmental Protection Agency notes, “Under President Trump, EPA has finalized 46 deregulatory actions, saving Americans more than $3.7 billion dollars in regulatory costs.”
Trump executive order 13771, requiring repeal of two old regs for every new one, actually achieved early on a ratio of 22 repealed for every new regulation. This action, decidedly different from that of the anti-industry previous administration, got American manufacturers’ attention. That pace has fallen, of course, but it’s still 2 1/2 times better than two for one.
Reporter John Stossel thinks “[the president’s] antiregulation attitude is why stock prices rose and unemployment dropped. Trump sent a message to business: Government will no longer try to crush you. Businesses then started hiring.” WOTUS repeal is indicative of the breadth and depth of the overdue deregulation, complete with SBA and OMB oversight. Each deregulatory action strengthens private property rights, which strengthens our nation.