The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed a rule that would remove small streams, isolated wetlands and other waterways from the Environmental Protection Agency's authority, a move proponents said simplifies a complex Obama-era rule but that environmental advocates said could threaten Chesapeake Bay cleanup.The legislation specifically gave the EPA the right to regulate "the navigable waters of the US", which the EPA interpreted quite broadly. A canoe was enough to make a waterway navigable. But by claiming the right to regulate the land upon which intermittent streams, ponds, and even puddles occurred, the Obama administration attempted to give regulators essentially complete free rein over all land.
The policy proposed under President Barack Obama in 2015 has never been implemented because of legal challenges across the country that accused the administration of federal overreach.
It would have dramatically increased regulation of bodies of water to include those that may only exist for part of the year or are far from tidal systems — waterways that environmentalists say can nonetheless feed pollution into larger ecosystems, such as the Chesapeake.
The rule change is not expected to mean much for waters, farms and development projects within Maryland, because state laws and regulations already trigger extensive reviews to prevent pollution from nutrients and sediment from increasing in the bay.And why should it? Tend your our own damn gardens.
But it could have a larger impact farther upstream in the Chesapeake watershed, in places such as Delaware and Pennsylvania, where state rules are less stringent and federal regulation is therefore more important.
“Maryland will have no ability to weigh in or minimize or avoid pollution discharges that are going to be coming in from places like Delaware,” said Elaine Lutz, a lawyer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “It could hamper our cleanup efforts all around the watershed.”
EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said President Donald Trump’s administration is handing more control over water quality to states and reducing red tape for farmers and business owners. Opponents of the Obama administration’s rule said it was open-ended and therefore confusing.The Obama rule change was a mammoth case of regulatory over-reach. They essentially claimed the right to control any land that ever has free flowing, or standing water on it, even if they didn't pursue it in each case initially. That would require more staff, which they would gradually acquire, and justify as necessary to monitor and regulate all the land in the country.
“For the first time, we are clearly defining the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Our simpler and clearer definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”