Trump Signs Executive Order to Elevate HBCU Initiatives

President Trump’s newest executive orders target a water-protection rule and elevate an initiative on historically black colleges and universities into the White House.

Trump signed the executive orders in back-to-back signing ceremonies at the White House on Tuesday. The first seeks to undo the Waters of the United States Rule, an Obama administration regulation that sought to reinterpret the Clean Water Act to extend federal protections to smaller rivers and streams.

In a Roosevelt Room ceremony with farmers and lawmakers, Trump called the rule “one of the worst examples of federal regulation” and said “it has truly run amok.”

At issue: the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act. Under the 2015 Obama rule, those waters could include, for example, anything within a 100-year floodplain or within 4,000 feet of a high-tide mark. “A few years ago, the EPA decided that ‘navigable waters’ can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land, or anyplace else that they decide — right? It was a massive power grab,” Trump said.

Trump’s plan of attack is similar to his earlier order aimed at a consumer-protection regulation called the Fiduciary Duty rule. Because the rule was finalized in 2015, the Trump administration will have to start the regulatory process from the beginning to remove it from the books. The executive order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do just that, asking them to reconsider whether federal jurisdiction extends to non-navigable streams.

But unlike the Fiduciary Duty Rule, which was scheduled to go into effect April 10, the Waters of the United States rule has already been blocked by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati. The executive order also asks the Justice Department to put that appeal on hold while the administration reconsiders the rule.

And it gives direct advice to agencies about how Trump would like to see the term “navigable waters” defined. In a 2005 Supreme Court decision, Justice Antonin Scalia defines them “only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographic features that are described in ordinary parlance as streams, oceans, rivers, and lakes.”

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, did not sound optimistic that the rule would survive.

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Source: USA Today | Gregory Korte

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