Donald Trump executive order targets clean water rule, Alabamians react

Trump signs WOTUS
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the media after signing the water executive order at the White House, in Washington, DC, U.S. February 28, 2017.

President Donald Trump‘s latest executive order ​rolls back a controversial Obama-era water regulation that designates what smaller bodies of water, tributaries and wetlands are under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Issued Tuesday, the order directs both departments to rescind or revise ​the​ 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which ​expand​ed​ federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The act allows the EPA to regulate “waters of the United States​,​”​ while failing to include what that term meant. Trump’s order could ultimately lead to a re-write of the law or a complete repeal.

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump was surrounded by farmers, homebuilders and county commissioners all opposed to and affected by the rule, in the White House Roosevelt Room where he signed the order.

“The EPA so-called Waters of the United States rule is one of the worst examples of federal regulation, and it has truly run amok, and is one of the rules most strongly opposed by farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers all across our land,” Trump said Tuesday. “It’s prohibiting them from being allowed to do what they’re supposed to be doing. It has been a disaster.”

Former Alabama Attorney General and current U.S. Sen. Luther Strange lauded the order.

“As Attorney General of Alabama, I joined other Republican Attorneys General, including my good friend and now Administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, to stop the EPA from implementing a rule that was nothing more than a naked power grab,” Strange said in a statement. “This executive overreach ignored the private property rights of Alabama farmers and is the perfect example of another one-size-fits-all approach from Washington that fails to recognize the unique needs of each community or the role of state and local government. I’m thankful for the President’s actions and encourage the complete repeal of WOTUS by Congress.”

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan echoed Strange’s approval on Wednesday, heartily endorsing the order.

“No other Obama environmental regulation had the potential to adversely affect every square foot of our state and economic sector than WOTUS,” said McMillan. “This punitive regulation threatened Alabama farmers, landowners and foresters with severe fines and requirements that were deceptively vague.”

He added that WOTUS affected county and municipal governments, as it contained stringent and unnecessary regulations on water and sewer systems. “Nearly every family in Alabama would have experienced spikes in’ their water and sewer bills.”

“Environmental quality and farming are not mutually exclusive but complement each other,” he explained further. As an outdoorsman used to tell me, ‘We should never forget that we all live downstream.”

McMillan pointed out that Washington bureaucrats should know that the best enforcers of environmental standards are those men and women who work the land and depend on water quality. “This new administration in Washington understands the value of reducing federal intrusiveness,” McMillan said.