Before the Trump administration finally found itself able to claim a significant legislative victory because of the tax reform plan in late 2017, the president marked his time in office by presiding over the shredding of as much pre-existing regulation as possible, no matter the cost.
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One of the regulations up for the chopping block was the Waters of the United States rule, an Obama era move that formally extended the government’s authority to curtail pollution to small waterways.
The original move proved controversial among industry interests because of the cost of complying with the regulations.
In the aftermath of the rule’s implementation, interests in the matter brought dozens of lawsuits against the government, and in one of them, the Supreme Court has just unanimously ruled against the government — in other words, against the Trump administration.
The ruling is not on the merits of the rule itself, but rather on the proper court for hearing challenges to the rule in question. The Trump administration has asserted that courts of appeals are the proper venue for such challenges, while industry interests have insisted that district courts are the proper venue. The Supreme Court has now ruled unanimously in favor of industry interests in this case.
National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn was thrilled with the outcome, commenting:
‘Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision provides much needed clarity and affirms our longstanding position that the Clean Water Act empowers the federal district courts, not the courts of appeals, to initially review legal challenges to the Waters of the U.S. Rule… This win, coupled with the administration’s actions in proposing to repeal the rule and seek input on how to properly define ‘waters of the U.S.,’ puts us one step closer to addressing this deeply problematic rule and the confusion it has created.’
The administration’s apparent legal incompetence on the matter of the Waters of the U.S. rule underscores an important point — Trump and his allies have proven themselves to be at least as concerned with industry interests as they are with protecting the environment. The fact of them not, apparently, knowing what they’re doing in this case correlates with a lack of concern.
The most infamous example of this apparent preference on the part of the Trump administration is the president’s abrupt announcement that he would be pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord last year. It is worth noting, however, that it requires more to pull the U.S. out of the accord than a single belligerent announcement from the president.
More recently, the Trump administration moved to open up offshore drilling around essentially the entire U.S., from California to Florida, a move immediately met with widespread criticism.
It remains to be seen how the rule change is implemented, if at all, and there has been talk of Florida being made exempt from the administration’s plans, although that’s not certain.
What is certain, however, is the Trump administration’s plans to prioritize U.S. business interests over other interests that the president is supposed to be looking out for as the leader of the country, indicated in everything from the president’s tax policy to his environmen