Donald Trump’s been tweeting away for some time now. Maybe you don’t recall his “Twitter rant,” as the GlobalGolfPost dubbed it, during the U.S. Open tournament back in June 2014. The Pinehurst 2 course in North Carolina had undergone a renovation, stripped of any rough and leaving nothing along the fairways but sandy areas and wiregrass. It was all about water conservation in a period of drought, with the need for irrigation drastically reduced.
Well, Trump didn’t like it one bit. In a series of tweets, he bemoaned that “the horrible look of Pinehurst translates into poor television ratings. This is not what golf is about!” He went on to add that he was “a lover of golf” who had “numerous courses that are far superior to Pinehurst.”
The reason this is a significant bit of Trump-twistory is his executive order this week to rescind and rewrite federal water regulations. It’s called the Waters of the United States rule, and it was promulgated by the Obama EPA in 2015. It was put in place to protect the drinking water supply for some 117 million Americans who live near smaller streams and wetlands that feed into larger rivers and lakes. Until then, it had never been clear precisely what the 1972 Clean Water Act safeguarded, because only “navigable” waters were deemed to need protection from pollution.
Many farmers didn’t approve of the expansion, nor did real estate developers, Chambers of Commerce – and golf course owners. It would certainly raise costs for golf courses, forcing them to cut water use and toxic runoff from the chemicals used. No more Pinehurst 2’s, thank you! So the industry has been working overtime trying to kill off the rule, with legal challenges preventing it yet taking effect. “I would say this is a very high priority for us,” said Bob Helland, chief lobbyist for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. “We are pleased to see that there is an effort to revisit the rule under this executive order.”
Conflict of interest, anyone? The Trump organization has twelve golf courses in the U.S. that would be subject to the directive. But the President didn’t happen to mention that, while calling for an immediate review of “one of the worst examples of federal regulation.” To Trump, this “has truly run amok” and “been a disaster” – even though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit blocked the rule from taking effect not long after it came into being. It’s still in limbo as Trump steps up to the tee.
He went on to exclaim at his signing event on February 28: “The Clean Waters Act says that the EPA can regulate navigable waters, meaning waters that truly effect interstate commerce. But a few years ago, the EPA decided that navigable waters can mean nearly every puddle or ditch on a farmer’s land or anyplace else that they decide. Right? It’s a massive power grab. The EPA’s regulators were putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands and regulations and permits started treating our wonderful small farmers and small businesses as if they were a major industrial polluter. They treated them horribly. Horribly.”
Not a whit of evidence has surfaced about any jobs lost because of the Waters of the United States rule. And lest we over-inflate the poor puddle, it turns out (according to the Federal Register) that puddles are excluded in the final rule because the agencies don’t consider such a “very small, shallow, and highly transitory pool of water” to meet the minimum standard for regulation. It is true that certain ditches functioning as tributaries that can impact the “integrity of downstream waters” were included in the rule.
But mark Trump’s words, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet when it comes to shelving all those pesky regulations aimed at protecting public health and the environment. While his proposed budget is to ramp up defense spending by $54 billion, the EPA is looking at cuts of up to 25 percent in its already underfunded $8.1 billion budget.