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With its publication of “The Potential Big Impact of Trump’s Clean Water Rollback,” National Geographic has joined a prominent list of publications that have confused the Clean Water Rule (which Trump is rolling back) from the Clean Water Act and its enforcement.
The Rule had already been¬†suspended in 2015 by several federal courts — long before Trump was elected.
The EPA and its supporters said the Rule was an effort to consolidate¬† into one single document, a wide variety of policies and legal precedents that had accumulated since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.
In creating the Rule, The EPA acknowledged that the plethora of various doctrines and rulings had made it confusing for landowners seeking compliance guidance.
Opponents of the Rule, on the other hand, charged that the Rule was a regulatory over-reach and not consistent with the intent of the statute passed by Congress.
Even without the Rule, current and prior enforcement ability rests, instead, in a very large and established body of court rulings and existing regulation that the Rule tried to encompass in a single policy document.
Trump’s action is entirely symbolic and does nothing to change the current ability of the EPA and Corps of Engineers to continue to enforce the Clean Water Act as it did during and prior to the Obama Administration.
In order for any president —¬† including Trump — to actually alter enforcement, would require it to re-write EPA regulations and to launch a Department of Justice effort that could lead to a change in established federal court precedents.
The current action could also be instantly overturned by an executive action from from a subsequent president.