CHARLESTON – West Virginia lawmakers are standing with President Donald Trump in officially undoing the Waters of the United States rule that unlawfully gave the federal government unprecedented control over small streams, farms and private property.
The executive order was filed Tuesday at a White House ceremony in which West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and other supporters, were in attendance. The executive order directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the rule, begin efforts to rescind the regulation and take appropriate steps in ongoing litigation.
“I’m proud to stand beside President Trump on this victorious day for our state and nation,” Morrisey said. “The president’s action punctuates more than a year of hard work by my office and our broad, bipartisan coalition.”
It dealt a striking blow to a regulation already stymied in federal court, thanks to a successful legal challenge brought by Attorney General Morrisey and a coalition of 31 states and state agencies.
Morrisey said Trump’s action, along with the nationwide stay, has ensured that homeowners, farmers and other property owners never realized the devastating impact of the rule.
U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins applauded the executive order.
“This rule represents the legacy of the Obama administration – more government overreach and fewer jobs for West Virginians,” Jenkins said. “The Waters of the United States rule grossly expands federal power at the cost of families, farmers and small businesses. I thank President Trump for working to stop this job-killing regulation and for joining Congress in objecting to this rule.
Angie Rosser, the executive director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said the Trump Administration’s action leads to dismantling the Clean Water Act and the protections it provides for West Virginia’s drinking water supplies.
“Fifty-four percent of West Virginians get their drinking water from sources that rely on headwater streams that would be protected under this rule,” Rosser said. “President Trump’s order rejects years of science and opens our drinking water supplies to more pollution”.
Rosser said the Clean Water Rule was the subject of more than one million public comments, with 87 percent of those responding—including 2,000 West Virginians, supporting the rule.
With the effort now to undo this rule, 8,390 miles of streams that feed into West Virginia’s drinking water sources are vulnerable.
“President Trump’s action not only intends to overturn the protection of West Virginia’s headwater streams, but aims to go further,” Rosser said. “By suggesting to limit the Clean Water Act’s authority to only ‘navigable waters’ that travel across state lines, most of our streams would be excluded from federal protection. This would have severe consequences for the health of our rivers and streams across the state.”
The rule, issued in June 2015, allowed the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to assert federal authority over an untold number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and any other area where water may flow once every 100 years.
Morrisey’s coalition argued the rule violated the states’ authority to determine how to protect their land and water resources, in addition to exceeding the Congressional authority granted to both agencies.
The states also cited U.S. Supreme Court precedent arguing twice in the past 15 years the court has ruled the agencies cannot assert jurisdiction over water and land features that are dry most of the year and lack a substantial connection to interstate navigable waters.
West Virginia challenged the rule alongside Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the New Mexico Environmental Engineer and the New Mexico State Engineer.
Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed S.J. Res 22, a resolution of disapproval of the Waters of the United States rule, during the 114th Congress. The-president Barack Obama vetoed the resolution in January 2016.