President Trump is expected to sign an executive order today (NZ time) aimed at rolling back one of former President Barack Obama’s major environmental regulations to protect American waterways. But according to the New York Times (HERE), it will have almost no immediate legal effect.
The order essentially will enable Mr Trump to direct his new Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, to begin the complicated legal process of rewriting the sweeping 2015 rule known as Waters of the United States. But that effort could take longer than a single presidential term, legal experts are quoted as saying.
The order is the first of two announcements expected to direct Mr Pruitt to begin dismantling the major pillars of Mr Obama’s environmental legacy.
In the coming week, Mr. Trump is expected to sign a similar order instructing Mr Pruitt to begin the process of withdrawing and revising Mr Obama’s signature 2015 climate-change regulation, aimed at curbing emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants.
Both of those rules were finalised under existing laws long before Mr Obama left office. Legal experts say they cannot therefore be simply undone with a stroke of the president’s pen.
The clean water rule was issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act. It gives the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water, like Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River and Puget Sound, as well as in streams and wetlands that drain into those larger waters.
The water rule came under fierce attack from farmers, property developers, fertiliser and pesticide makers, oil and gas producers, golf-course owners and other business interests that contend it will stifle economic growth and intrude on property owners’ rights.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, which has led the legal fight against the rule, contends that it places an undue burden on farmers in particular, who may find themselves required to apply for federal permits to use fertiliser near ditches and streams on their property that may eventually flow into larger rivers.