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Trump Orders Review Of Obama-Era Clean Water Rule


President Trump has ordered a review of the Waters of the U.S. rule. It's an Obama-era regulation that says which waters the federal government can protect. As NPR's Nathan Rott reports, undoing the rule would be a long and difficult process.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: All federal protection over water goes back decades to the Clean Water Act. It says the federal government has jurisdiction over so-called navigable waters. Think big enough for a boat. But Jan Goldman-Carter, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation who used to work for the EPA, says it was always meant to be broader.

JAN GOLDMAN-CARTER: We cannot protect the downstream, float-a-boat Mississippi River unless we protect all the little streams and wetlands that feed into that river.

ROTT: Which little streams and wetlands, though, was always unclear, and court decisions made it muddier. The Obama administration tried to clarify it with the Waters of the U.S. rule in 2015. But the move was challenged by dozens of states and industries, farmers, ranchers, real estate and golf course developers who say that the rules go too far and are an expensive burden. Enter Donald Trump, a golf course owner himself.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I've been hearing about it for years and years. I didn't know I'd necessarily be in this position to do something about it.

ROTT: Trump signed the executive order to review the rule flanked by farmers, ranchers and county commissioners.


ROTT: But his signature does little immediately. Michael Wara of Stanford University says making a new rule or undoing the current one could take years.

MICHAEL WARA: There will be the opportunity to comment on the rule. There will be the opportunity to challenge the rule in court if EPA's response to those comments is unsatisfactory.

ROTT: The original water rule, environmental and sportsman groups say, drew a million public comments. They expect even more for any changes. Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.