December 13, 2018

President Trump tells EPA to drain the swamp; EPA says “not so much”

By Anthony L. Francois Senior Attorney

PLF client John Duarte joined the crew on Fox and Friends this morning to talk about being prosecuted by the Justice Department and the Department of the Army under the Clean Water Act, merely for plowing his company’s farm:

The five-year ordeal culminated in Duarte Nursery settling with the government for $1.1 million to avoid the risk of an even more ruinous $43 million penalty at trial. John did what he needed to do to protect his family, his business, and his employees and their families. But the outcome still rankles.

When he took office, Trump ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise its expansive and illegal definition of “navigable waters” (also known by the Orwellian acronym “WOTUS”). The goal was to ensure that ordinary Americans like John are not hauled into federal court to face millions in fines for normal everyday activities like farming their land or building their homes.

This week EPA issued a long awaited response to Trump’s order. How is it? As the president would tweet: Sad!

The EPA proposal would still regulate a wide network of non-navigable tributaries, plus swaths of wetlands that do not touch navigable waters anywhere. The proposal does include some common sense reforms, like affirming that roadside ditches are not federally protected commercial waterways, but it falls far short of what the president called for.

One of Trump’s watchwords is “drain the swamp!” But EPA bureaucrats apparently understand their mission as protecting swamps. In this “less than half a loaf” proposal, one can almost hear the agency’s career staff saying “drain this.”

 

 

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