WASHINGTON, D.C (WDTV) – President Trump signed a "Waters of the United States" executive order on Tuesday. The President's act is the first step in an effort to undo the Obama-era Clean Water Rule.
Vice President Pence and First Lady Melania Trump were also present for the executive action.
After the executive order was signed, West Virginia Rivers Coalition released the following statement:
The Clean Water Act is the cornerstone for the recovery and protection of our rivers and streams. 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. President Trump’s order rejects years of science and opens our drinking water supplies to more pollution.
The Clean Water Rule was the subject of more than a 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. 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.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey stood alongside President Donald Trump for the official undoing of the Waters of the United States rule, an unlawful regulation that gave the federal government unprecedented control of over small streams, farms and private property.
The executive order, signed Tuesday at a White House ceremony attended by Attorney General Morrisey and other supporters, 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.
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.
“I’m proud to stand beside President Trump on this victorious day for our state and nation,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The President’s action punctuates more than a year of hard work by my office and our broad, bipartisan coalition.
“Together, our securing of a nationwide stay and President Trump’s action, ensured that homeowners, farmers and a host of other property owners never realized the devastating impact of this burdensome and unlawful rule,” he continued.
Attorney General Morrisey’s leadership in helping secure a nationwide stay blocked enforcement of the rule and proved crucial in providing time for a new administration and Tuesday’s executive order.
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.
Attorney General 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.