By Michael Bastach
President Donald Trump touted his administration’s repealing of the “waters of the United States” rule, also known as WOTUS, while speaking at the 100th annual American Farm Bureau Convention in New Orleans.
“We’re saving farmers and ranchers from one of the most ridiculous regulations ever imposed on anybody in our nation, the waters of the United States rule,” Trump said in his speech Monday to applause and cheers from the audience.
“You could have a pond, a little pond, and they consider it a lake,” Trump said. “You’re regulated as though it were a lake. We’re going to get government off your backs so you can earn a living and support your families doing what you love, and I know what you love, farmers love what they’re doing.”
The Obama administration issued WOTUS in 2015 to expand federal authority over waterways, including those on private property. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the rule was necessary to clear up confusion in the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
However, a large contingent of U.S. states disagreed with the Obama administration and sued to keep WOTUS from going into effect. States were joined by farmers, ranchers, energy producers and a whole host of other industries in challenging WOTUS.
Trump signed an executive order to rewrite WOTUS in a manner consistent with former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s plurality opinion in Rapanos v. United States, which narrowly interpreted federal Clean Water Act authority.
EPA proposed a rewrite to WOTUS in December that would roll back the federal government’s jurisdiction over waterways, including ephemeral streams and ditches.
At the 2017 signing ceremony for his WOTUS order, Trump said the farmers and ranchers, “strong, tough men and women behind him,” shed tears of joy as he ordered federal agencies to review the regulation.
“And half of them were crying because, basically, our government stole their property,” Trump said. “They couldn’t do anything. They couldn’t build, they couldn’t do anything.”
“I don’t think he cried in his whole life,” Trump said of one farmer who stood behind him. “I don’t think he cried when he was a baby, he was crying. He said, ‘Sir, you gave me back my life, you gave me back my property. They took it away, environmentally took it away.’”
“In the audience today is Val Wagner from Monango, North Dakota,” Trump said later in the speech. Wagner and her husband wanted to expand their farm, but WOTUS held them back, Trump said.
“They would have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines because of the prairie potholes on their land,” Trump said.