Executive Action

Waters of the US

On Tuesday, February 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order (EO) directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to revise or rescind the Obama Administration’s controversial “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule which defines the scope of the federal government’s regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The rule has previously received opposition from congressional Republicans, the agricultural industry, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt himself, who led the legal challenge against the rule during his tenure as Attorney General of Oklahoma. Following the President’s signing of the EO, Administrator Pruitt released a notice indicating the agency’s intent to follow the EO’s directions to review the rule through a formal notice-and-comment rulemaking process and to consider interpreting the term “navigable waters,” as defined in the CWA in a manner “consistent with the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in Rapanos v. United States.” The notice-and-comment rulemaking process is anticipated to be a lengthy procedure, meaning a final rule is not expected anytime soon. Once a final rule is released, it is predicted that lawsuits from Democratic states and environmental groups will follow. 

Legislative Action

This Week’s Hearings

  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, will hold a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: The Role of Federal Agencies in Water Infrastructure.”
  • On Wednesday, March 8, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a legislative hearing to examine S. 512, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act. The bill, introduced chairman of the committee, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), would make changes to existing uranium regulation, establish new transparency and accountability measures for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s budget and fee programs and propose a regulatory framework for the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors.
  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs, will hold a hearing titled “Improving and Expanding Infrastructure in Tribal and Insular Communities.”
  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Research and Technology, will hold a hearing titled “Research and Technology Subcommittee Hearing – National Science Foundation Part 1: Overview and Oversight.” The hearing will focus on federal funding for research, among other areas. The Director, Dr. France Córdova, and the Inspector General, Allison Lerner, of the National Science Foundation will testify.