CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is praising the Trump administration’s decision to repeal the Waters of the United States rule, which the Attorney General has previously characterized as an unlawful power grab from the Obama era.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Sept. 12 those agencies would repeal the Obama-era rule as step one of a two-step process, meant to give renewed certainty to farmers and landowners by restoring the longstanding lines between waters subject to federal and state regulation.
“The Obama-era water rules did not give us better, cleaner water, which everyone wants,” Morrisey said. “Instead, it gave unelected bureaucrats unprecedented power to change rules and regulations on a whim. The Trump administration is working to protect the quality of our water, in addition to restoring the balance and certainty farmers and businesses need for our nation to prosper.”
This repeal sets the stage for finalization of a new Waters of the United States rule, announced last December and supported in April by Morrisey and a coalition of 17 states. Morrisey's office says the coalition’s public comment supported step two arguing it shows respect for the primary responsibility and right of states to regulate their own water resources and will correct flaws within the Obama-era regulation, which extended authority of the EPA and the Corps of Engineers far beyond what Congress intended and the Constitution permits.
Morrisey has been fought against the Obama-era regulation since its issuance in June 2015. He says the 2015 rule, if implemented, would have taken jurisdiction over natural resources from states and asserted federal authority over almost any body of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and many other areas where water may flow once every 100 years.
For instance, if a property owner wanted to use sand to fill a ditch that has not carried water in decades, the Obama-era rule could have subjected that person to fines and penalties for violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
Morrisey has led lawsuits challenging the Obama-era rule and similar efforts by environmentalists. He won a stay that blocked enforcement of the rule in October 2015 as well as related victories in 2018 and most recently in August 2019.
Morrisey says West Virginia continues to benefit from these court rulings, as they proved crucial in providing time for a new administration and reconsideration of the rule.
In February 2017, Morrisey attended a White House ceremony, during which President Trump directed EPA and the Corps of Engineers to review the Obama rule, begin efforts to rescind the regulation and take appropriate steps in litigation.