“The term ‘navigable waters’ includes dry land.” “No, it doesn’t.”
“Well, it includes damp land, land that’s been rained on recently or is still wet from the morning dew.” “No, no. no.”
“It certainly includes ditches, puddles, and ruts from downspouts.” “That’s ridiculous! You can’t navigate ditches, puddles, and ruts.”
We wonder how many landowners had to suffer through Kafkaesque conversations like that with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency during the previous presidential administration’s regulatory reign of terror. We doubt that any of them enjoyed those encounters – or that any will miss ever having to go through them again, now that the purposefully expansive misinterpretation of the word “navigable” is officially a thing of the past.
In 2015, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and other state AGs persuaded a U.S. Court of Appeals to stay implementation of the Waters of the United States Rule. Upon assuming office, President Trump called for review and rescission of the WOTUS Rule, and an acting EPA Administrator subsequently unveiled a proposed change. Last year, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers promised that the rule would be repealed and replaced.
The Trump administration has now announced that the intentionally ambiguous and easily abused Waters of the United States Rule has been replaced by the new, clear, and commonsensical Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
“The Obama-era approach would [have harmed] jobs and economic growth by taking jurisdiction from states and asserting federal authority over almost any body of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams, and many other areas where water may flow only once every 100 years,” Morrisey charges.
“The Trump administration’s new rule will protect water quality while restoring the balance and certainty that our nation needs to prosper,” he affirms. “You cannot regulate a puddle as you do a river, and doing so will never give us cleaner water, which is what we all want.”
Let that be the end of the nightmarish, Humpty-Dumpty world where words can mean whatever any meddling, overzealous bureaucrat says they mean.