Executive Order on WOTUS Rule


  • President Trump today signed an executive order that requires the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a new “waters of the U.S.” rule.
  • The executive order establishes a national policy to safeguard navigable waters while protecting economic growth, reducing regulatory uncertainty, and respecting states’ roles.

Today, President Trump signed an executive order regarding the “waters of the U.S.” rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers in 2015. The WOTUS rule dramatically expanded the definition of navigable waters under the Clean Water Act, which historically had been limited to rivers and streams and their immediately adjacent wetlands. The EPA and Corps altered the definition to cover things like ditches, ponds, and prairie potholes. The rule established broad new power over water and land use across the country, but would do little to give Americans access to clean water.

A Step Toward Restoring the Rule of Law

The executive order establishes a national policy to safeguard navigable waters from pollution while protecting economic growth, reducing regulatory uncertainty, and respecting states’ roles. The order requires the EPA and Corps to review and propose a new rule, with consideration to Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion on the scope of federal authority under the Clean Water Act.

WOTUS Rule

The WOTUS rule is a prime example of the regulatory overreach under the Obama administration. Nearly 90 parties have challenged the rule in court, including 32 states. Last fall, 21 Senators and 67 Congressmen filed a “friend of the court” brief urging the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the rule. The court has blocked the rule from taking effect. Litigation in the 6th Circuit is delayed until the Supreme Court reviews a related jurisdictional case. Oral arguments are expected in the case this fall.

Relief for American Families, Farmers, and Small Businesses

Today’s executive order provides much-needed relief for Americans who the EPA and the Corps ignored during the rulemaking process. 

The agencies “failed to listen to concerned farmers, ranchers and business owners around the country in crafting its new rule ... making it impossible for farmers and ranchers to look at their land and know what can be regulated.” – American Farm Bureau Federation, March 31, 2016

“The rule will have a direct and potentially costly impact on small businesses. The limited economic analysis that the agencies submitted with the rule provides ample evidence of a potentially significant economic impact.” – Small Business Administration, May 19, 2015

“The flawed consultation process has resulted in a final rule that does not move us closer to achieving clean water goals and creates more confusion than clarity.” – National Association of Counties, May 27, 2015

The rule “has the potential to bring local development to a stop and make it much more difficult for small businesses to make even minor improvements to their properties." – National Federation of Independent Business, April 22, 2016

Last Congress, Senate Democrats unjustifiably blocked a commonsense legislative effort to revise the rule. Instead of supporting a bipartisan legislative solution, 11 Democratic Senators sent a partisan letter to the EPA and the Corps complaining about the rule. Congress also passed a resolution disapproving the rule under the Congressional Review Act on a bipartisan basis, which President Obama vetoed.