Sacramento, California; December 11, 2018: In February 2017, President Trump issued an executive order instructing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army to revise the overly broad definition of “navigable waters” under the Waters of the United States rule.

The goal of Trump’s order was to protect ordinary Americans engaged in routine activities on their property from being treated like industrial polluters under the Clean Water Act. But today’s proposal fails to deliver on that promise.

The proposal takes the obvious step to clarify that roadside ditches are not federal commercial waterways. But it still regulates small, intermittent or seasonal drainages on private property, even when that property is far removed from navigable waters. It also regulates wetlands no matter how small or distant from actually navigable rivers and lakes.

“While this is an improvement from EPA’s unreasonable and illegal 2015 definition of navigable waters, it still falls well outside the Supreme Court’s plurality opinion defining the limits of Clean Water Act jurisdiction,” PLF Senior Attorney Tony Francois said. “Despite assurances that the new definition would clarify what is regulated, landowners will still face uncertainty, high consulting costs and aggressive assertions of jurisdiction from agency enforcers. Army and EPA bureaucrats still have far too much power to regulate private property, and they will continue to abuse that power without meaningful reforms.”


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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 14 victories out of 16 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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