WASHINGTON >> When President Donald Trump signed an order to begin rolling back clean water regulations implemented by his predecessor, Berks County Commissioners’ Chairman Christian Leinbach stood behind the action — literally.
He even shot a little video after the president signed the order.
Leinbach, in Washington Tuesday, Feb. 28, for a National Association of Counties meeting, was among a small group of county officials invited to the White House Roosevelt Room for the signing event and stood directly behind Trump as the signature was affixed.
Known as the “Waters of the U.S.” rule, it is part of the Clean Water Act and designates what smaller bodies of water, tributaries and wetlands are under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The rule was signed by President Obama in May 2015 and went into effect in late August 2015. Critics of the rule argued it is too restrictive, applying to too many water bodies which are clearly not “navigable.”
“A few years ago the EPA decided that navigable waters can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land or any place else they decide. Right? It was a massive power grab,” President Trump said at the signing.
“The EPA so-called Waters of the United States rule is one of the worst examples of federal regulation, and it has truly run amok, and is one of the rules most strongly opposed by farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers all across our land,” Trump said. “It’s prohibiting them from being allowed to do what they’re supposed to be doing. It has been a disaster.”
Leinbach, a Republican, evidently agrees, calling the rule “overreach” in a Facebook post where he called Trump’s action “great for counties and our farmers.”
County officials across the nation welcome Trump’s executive order.
“We are encouraged by the president’s action and look forward to renewed dialogue with the (Environmental Protection Agency) and the (Army Corps of Engineers) to develop more workable rules at the local level,” said Bryan Desloge, president of the National Association of Counties, for which Leinbach is the northeast regional representative.
“Since counties play a critical role in implementing and enforcing federal water policies, it is crucial that the agencies work with us to develop rules and regulations that work at the local level,” Desloge said.
“Our nation’s counties support clean water, and we support common-sense environmental regulations,” Desloge said in the statement. “Counties are on the front lines of preserving local resources, strengthening public safety and fostering economic growth, which all contribute to vibrant communities across the country.”
Critics of Trump’s action say it undoes decades of progress on improving water quality in the U.S., both for drinking and wildlife habitat protection.
The Obama-era rule “restores long-standing protections for millions of wetlands and headwater streams that contribute to the drinking water of one in three Americans, protects communities from flooding, and provides essential fish and wildlife habitat that supports a robust outdoor recreation economy,” according to a statement from a sportsmen’s coalition that includes Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
As the result, the rule “sustains the sport fishing industry, which accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion every year that relies on access to clean water,” the statement read.
“The new administration must listen to the voices of American sportsmen who want more clean water, more fish and wildlife habitat, and new progress building on the successes of the past,” the group said.