Barrasso: WOTUS Rule is Fundamentally Flawed and Must be Withdrawn

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a committee oversight hearing on “A Review of the Technical, Scientific, and Legal Basis of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.”

The hearing featured testimony from Major General John Peabody (Ret.); Dr. Michael Josselyn, the principal of Wetlands Research Associates; Mr. Misha Tseytlin, solicitor general for the State of Wisconsin; Mr. Ken Kopocis, associate professor at American University Washington College of Law; and Mr. Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

For more information on their testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“On February 28th, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to review the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States or WOTUS Rule and publish a proposed rule that would rescind or revise that rule.

“While this action was both correct and important, the long saga of the WOTUS rule is not yet over.

“This fundamentally flawed rule is still on the books and needs to be withdrawn. 

“The Supreme Court has decided to rule on whether or not circuit courts have the jurisdiction to hear challenges to the rule.

“If the Supreme Court decides that these cases belong in District Courts, then the nationwide stay that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued will go away.

“If that happens, this terrible, unlawful rule, will go into effect and EPA and the Corps will be able to regulate isolated ponds and dry stream beds that have no impact on navigable water and were never intended to be covered under the Clean Water Act.

“As we will hear from our witnesses today, the justification for withdrawing the rule is overwhelming.

“General Peabody is a decorated retired member of the military who was the Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations at the Corps of Engineers until he retired in the fall of 2015. 

“He will tell us that the definitions in the WOTUS Rule are not based on the Corps’ expertise and experience. 

“In fact, the Corps was shut out of the process of writing the final rule and the support documents for the final rule.

“The Corps is the agency that performs the on the ground inspections that identify what water is federally regulated.

“If the rule is not based on their experience, that means it has no technical basis.

“It is, instead, a blatant government power grab.

“Dr. Josselyn is a PhD and a professional wetland scientist who was a member of the Science Advisory Board panel put together by the EPA that reviewed EPA’s ‘Science Report.’

“This report is a scientific literature review on water connectivity. 

“The Obama EPA claimed that the WOTUS rule is based on the conclusions of this report. 

“Dr. Josselyn will tell us that, in fact, this report does not address the issue of where federal regulators should establish jurisdiction. 

“EPA’s Science Report looks at connections to water, but fails to examine whether connections are significant and most of the studies in the report do not address navigable water.

“Instead, this report concludes that all water is connected.

“Our children learn that in 4th Grade when they learn about the water cycle.

“But that has nothing to do with federal jurisdiction.

“And it means that EPA’s Science Report cannot be used to justify the WOTUS Rule. 

“Mr. Tseytlin  is the solicitor general for the State of Wisconsin and works with the 31 states that are challenging the WOTUS Rule.

“Mr. Tseytlin will tell us that the final rule included new definitions that were created without public input, and even without public notice. 

“This means that the WOTUS rule is arbitrary and capricious and violates the Administrative Procedure Act.

“We also will hear from Mr. Kopocis. 

“He was the deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water in the Obama Adminstration.

“Mr. Kopocis will tell us that the Obama Administration met with states and other stakeholders during the rule making process. 

“But that does not change the fact that between the proposed rule and the final rule, the Corps was arbitrarily or deliberately shut out of the process.

“The end result is the Obama Administration wrote a rule that is not supported by agency expertise, by agency experience, by the science, or the law.

“Finally, we will hear from Collin O’Mara, President & Chief Executive Officer, National Wildlife Federation.

“The National Wildlife Federation is very interested in protecting wildlife habitat. 

“The right way to do that is to form partnerships with landowners, not to expand federal control over private property.

“In fact, in 2014 the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a report that notes that the service works with landowners to employ cooperative conservation measures to preserve isolated wetlands like prairie potholes, measures that let farming continue. 

“If the WOTUS rule goes into effect, instead of working cooperatively, the federal government could simply take control of private land and shut down farming activity.

“We have already had attempts to do this in my home state of Wyoming where Mr. Andy Johnson who EPA threatened to fine $37,500 per day for simply building a stock pond on his property.

“After looking at this record, the only course of action that makes sense is to withdraw the rule and start over.

“I hope we see quick action to lift this threat to farmers and other land owners that has been created by the WOTUS rule.” 



President Trump Signs Executive Order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America

Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump welcomed farmers to the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where he participated in a roundtable discussion and signed the Executive Order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America.

America’s noble farming tradition stretches back to its earliest days.  Farmers led the way across the Great Plains, and put down roots from coast to coast.  Today, America’s farmers feed not only our nation, but millions of people around the world.

President Trump signing Executive Order on Agriculture

Our farmers deserve a government that serves their interest and empowers them to do the hard work that they love to do so much.  With this order, the President directed Secretary Perdue to work with other members of the Cabinet to identify and eliminate unnecessary regulations that hurt our Nation’s farmers and rural communities.

President Trump signing Executive Order on Agriculture

Remarks by President Trump in Farmers Roundtable and Executive Order Signing Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America

THE PRESIDENT:  Busy day.  They had a very busy day — had a good day.  We’re doing well, very well.  Things are turning around.  I know they’re turning around for you folks, so I just want to welcome you very much to the White House — special place — America’s farmers and ranchers.  

I especially want to congratulate Secretary — now I can say, Secretary Sonny Perdue, who was just sworn in as the Secretary of Agriculture — (applause) — sworn in by Justice Thomas.  And it was a beautiful ceremony, and we’re going to celebrate a little bit later, and that’s great.  We’re very happy.  And you had a good vote too.


THE PRESIDENT:  You didn’t have one of those 51-49 votes.  (Laughter.)  He had a very big vote, so thank Justice Thomas too — great man, great person.  We appreciate it.

America’s noble farming tradition stretches back to its earliest days.  Farmers led the way across the Great Plains, and put down roots from coast to coast.  Today, America’s farmers feed not only our nation, but millions of people around the world, and we’re going to open that up much more for you folks because, as you know, it’s not totally open, to put it mildly.  We learned that yesterday, frankly, with Canada, where the dairy farmers up in Wisconsin, Upstate New York, different places — a lot of border states in particular — are not able to sell their dairy products into Canada.  And this has been going on for a while, and we’re not going to put up with it.

And separately, we put a very big tax — we will be putting a very big tariff on lumber — timber — coming into this country.  People don’t realize Canada has been very rough on the United States.  Everyone thinks of Canada as being wonderful, and so do I.  I love Canada.  But they’ve outsmarted our politicians for many years, and you people understand that.  So we did institute a very big tariff; we announced it yesterday.  And we’re going to take care of our dairy farmers in Wisconsin, and Upstate New York, and lots of other places.  So I think you people all probably agree with that, right?  Would you agree with that?  You better believe it.

Our farmers deserve a government that serves their interest and empowers them to do the hard work that they love to do so much.  And that’s what today’s executive order is all about.  With this order, I’m directing Secretary Perdue to work with other members of my Cabinet to identify and eliminate unnecessary regulations that hurt our nation’s farmers and rural communities.  

Now, Sonny, I’ve already signed a lot of regulations and terminations that really help the farmer a lot.  You know what I’m talking about.  But we have some left, and you’ll identify them.  But we’ve really gotten rid of some of the biggest ones.  And that was a big help, right?  I mean, they won’t tell you about it, but they’re big numbers, and it’s going to mean a lot to the farmers.

This order also establishes the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, to be led by Secretary Perdue.  I just want to tell you that it’s an honor to be with you because, among many other things, with this order, we continue a very relentless effort to make life better for hardworking Americans, and that includes the farmers and all of the people gathered around this table, including our ranchers, our rural community folks.  We’re having a very, very big impact.  It’s already started.  Sonny is going to now identify additional areas where we can get rid of unnecessary regulations, and you people are going to be so prosperous, and you’re going to hire so many more people than currently work for you, and that’s going to make me very happy, okay?

So I want to thank you very much.  So do we have the executive order, please?

So this is promoting agriculture and rural prosperity in America.  And, now, there’s a lot of words I won’t bother reading everything.  But agriculture and rural prosperity in America, that’s what we want.  And we don’t want to be taken advantage of by other countries — and that’s stopping, and that’s stopping fast.  Okay, thank you.

(The President signs the executive order.)

Well, perhaps I should give this pen to Sonny Perdue.  What do you think?  (Laughter and applause.)  

Thank you very much, everybody.

Q    Mr. President, do you fear a trade war with Canada, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, not at all.

Q    Why not?

THE PRESIDENT:  They have a tremendous surplus with the United States.  Whenever they have a surplus, I have no fear.  By the way, virtually every country has a surplus with the United States.  We have massive trade deficits.  So when we’re the country with the deficits, we have no fear.

Q    Will you sign a CR if it doesn’t include funding for the wall?


Q    Will you sign a CR to continue funding the government if it doesn’t include — 

THE PRESIDENT:  The wall is going to get built, by the way.  Just in case anybody has any question:  The wall is going to get built, and the wall is going to stop drugs, and it’s going to stop a lot of people from coming in that shouldn’t be here, and it’s going to have a huge effect on human trafficking, which is a tremendous problem in this world — a problem that nobody talks about — but it’s a problem that’s probably worse than any time in the history of this world.  Human trafficking, what’s going on.  

The wall is going to get built, and we’re setting record numbers in terms of stopping people from coming in, and stopping drugs from coming in.  You see the numbers down 73, 74 percent.  I will say, Secretary Kelly — formerly General Kelly — is doing an incredible job.  And I was just with him a little while ago, and he said we definitely, desperately need the wall.  And we’re going to have the wall built.  I mean, I don’t know why people are talking.  I watch these shows, and the pundits in the morning — they don’t know what they’re talking about.  The wall gets built — 100 percent.  Thank you very much.

Q    When will the wall get built?

THE PRESIDENT:  Soon.  We’re already preparing.  We’re doing plans.  We’re doing specifications.  We’re doing a lot of work on the wall, and the wall gets built.  The wall is very, very important.

Q    In your first term?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s certainly going to — yeah, yeah, sure.

Q    In your first term?

THE PRESIDENT:  We have plenty of time — got a lot of time.

Thank you.


Press Briefing by Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke on the Executive Order to Review the Designations Under the Antiquities Act

MS. WALTERS:  Hello, everyone.  As you guys knows, we’re going to go through an EO for tomorrow.  The speaker this evening is Secretary Zinke.  This is embargoed until 9:00 p.m.  It is on the record, so everything discussed here will be on the record.  The embargo is until 9:00 p.m. tonight.

Again, this falls underneath Kelly’s issue area, so if you have any additional follow-up questions, please reach out to Kelly Love.  For those of you on the phone, there will be a handout during this session, so if you would like the handout please email Kelly as well, and we will get it to you.

With that, I’ll turn it over.

SECRETARY ZINKE:  So I’ll read this and then I’ll answer some questions.  Tomorrow, the President will come to the Department of Interior, to my office, and sign the executive order to review the Antiquities Act.  The executive order will direct me, as the Secretary, to review prior monument designations and to suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monuments.  The monument designation period stretches from 1 January 1996 under which the act — and it has to include acts and monuments that are 100,000 acres or more — so the beginning date is January 1st, 1996, and the other condition is they have to be a total of 100,000 acres or more.  That should include about 24 to 40 monuments.  That gives you kind of a thumbnail.  

The executive order directs the Interior to provide an interim report to the President within 45 days of the day of the order and a final report to the President within 120 days of that order.  

For the record, in the last 20 years, in particular, that would cover about, oh, tens of millions of acres to include marine area sanctuaries.  Some of these areas were put off limits for traditional uses, like farming, ranching, timber harvest, mining, oil and gas exploration, fishing, and motorized recreation.  

The designations on kind of the bookends are the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument of 1996.  And that was the first BLM land designation, all the way to really the Bears Ears National Monument in 2016, which has been in the news a lot.  So those are the kind of two bookends.  Again, it’s monuments that are 100,000 acres or larger, so it hits the big ones.

The President’s — the authority on such matters is singular, so you know.  There’s no requirement for public input before the designation of a monument and there’s no NEPA requirement.  Normally, when you do a land use project, we normally NEPA.  The Antiquities Act is the exception.  Again, we don’t have to go through legislative process; the President determines it, and it does not have to go through NEPA.

In this case, the administration, as you all know, has heard from members of Congress and states and, in some cases, the designation of the monuments may have resulted in loss of jobs, reduced wages and reduced public access.  And in the case of sign public land use, we feel that the public, the people that the monuments affect, should be considered.  And that’s why the President is asking for a review of the monuments designated in the last 20 years to see what changes, if any, improvements can be made, and give states and local communities a meaningful voice in the process.

And I can tell you, from a kid who grew up in Montana, or grew up in the West, where much-needed monuments have taken place, I think today’s executive order and review of the Antiquities Act over the past two decades is long overdue.  

And the policy is consistent with the President’s promise to give Americans a voice and make sure their voices are heard.  Like many of the actions he’s taken since assuming the role of the President, the office, this is yet another example the President is doing exactly what he was saying in his campaign promises, and he’s delivering.

The President believes, like I do, that many of the neighbors in the Western states of the federal government can be a good neighbor.  We can protect areas of cultural and economic importance, and they can use the federal lands for economic development when appropriate, just as Teddy Roosevelt envisioned it.  I am a lifetime supporter and admirer of Teddy Roosevelt’s policies, and the President is the same.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 — and that was under President Roosevelt — it did give the President the authority to declare historic monuments, landmarks, prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic and scientific interest on federal lands.  Also in the Antiquities Act, authors specified the scope of the authority to “designate the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”  That’s verbiage from the act itself.

So with the average size of the monument’s designations over the past years has increased.  I think that should be worthy of notice.  Since the 1990s, when the act was first used, the average size of the national monuments came from 422 acres to, today, in the millions of acres.  

So here’s what the executive order does in summary.  It restores the trust between local communities in Washington that the local communities and states will have a voice — those states that are affected, and local communities.  The executive order puts America and the Department of Interior back on track to manage our federal lands in accordance with traditional multiple use, as laid out by Pinchot and the President, and directs the Department of Interior to make recommendations to the President on whether a monument should be rescinded, resized, modified in order to better manage our federal lands.  And this executive order gives rural communities across America, again, a voice, as his campaign promised and is delivering that.

Here’s what the executive order does not do.  The executive order does not strip any monument of a designation.  The executive order does not loosen any environmental or conservation regulation on any land or marine areas.  It is a review of the last 20 years, and the review has timelines in which I am obligated to uphold.

So I have with me my advisor, Downey Magallanes, with me.  Downey is there, and she’ll help me answer questions if I cannot field them.  So, questions?  Sir.

Q    Does this executive order presuppose that the President has the authority to unilaterally withdraw weigh-ins or revoke a national monument designation?  Or is that one of the issues that —

SECRETARY ZINKE:  No.  As I said in my hearing, it’s undisputed the President has the authority to modify a monument.  It’s pretty premature to suggest we do the review in which I’m going to review and recommend to the President whether to rescind a monument completely or modify it.  It is untested, as you know, whether the President can do that, but at this point, I haven’t gone through the list — and I’m sure someone is going to ask me how I’m going to go through and review, so I’ll be glad to answer that. 

Yes, sir.

Q    Thank you very much.  First, just to clarify, it was extended to 21 years just to include Grand Staircase in this review?  And secondly, do you believe, at the end of this review process, you’ll recommend changes to the Antiquities Act?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  The bookends really are from the Grand Staircase to Bear’s Ears, so that’s the period of time, roughly — about 20 years.

Q    So it’s included on purpose?
SECRETARY ZINKE:  Well, it went back 20 years.  So I’m not going to predispose what the outcome is going to be.  How I’m going to proceed is this — is I’m going to talk to congressional delegations and review the list.  I’m going to talk to governors.  I’m going to talk to the stakeholders involved and formulate recommendations that are appropriate.

Up front, I’m a Teddy Roosevelt guy.  And so I think, when the Antiquities Act came out, I think we should all recognize that, by and large, the Antiquities Act and the monuments that we have protected have done a great service to the public and are some of our most treasured lands in this country.  So this is an enormous responsibility I have to make recommendations that are appropriate, that follow the law.  But no one loves our public lands more than I.  You could love them as much, but you can’t love them more than I do.  And that’s one of the reasons why I love my job.

Q    During your confirmation hearing, you told Maria Cantwell, I am absolutely against the transfer and sale of  public lands, it can’t be more clear.  Do you still believe that?  And I have a follow-up.

SECRETARY ZINKE:  Absolutely, unequivocally, I stand by — matter of fact, with a recreational guide this morning, I made the same statement again, is that I am opposed to transfer or sale of public land.

What I am strongly supportive of is managing our land.  And there’s no doubt if you — especially out West.  You look at the catastrophic forest fires, our wildlife corridors, our water management — that we can do a lot better as a government of managing our land.  And, to a degree, we’ve drifted too far away from multiple use into single use.

Q    Do you worry, though, that this will lead to the transfer of land?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  No.  I’ve heard that argument; I think that argument is false.

Q    It just won’t happen?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  And remember, the monuments before this happened were public land.  And when they designate a monument, what it does is it restricts it and sometimes it restricts it from traditional uses like grazing.  Public access, in some cases, can be restricted because gates go up.

So I think you have to proceed carefully on it.  But multiple use on much of our land was designed under Pinchot to use for the public good for all of us, and not necessarily single use.  And that’s where we are.

Q    You said in your last response that in general you feel like in most of these cases the designations have provided some kind of public service and they’ve done a good job.  Can you talk about the flip side of that coin — cases where you feel like maybe they actually haven’t?  And then just one clarification — does this apply to monuments that were designated earlier than 1996 but then modified after 1996?  Apparently there are a number that fall into that category.

SECRETARY ZINKE:  On your second point, if the modification was significant, we’ll look at that.  My understanding is there’s about 30 or so monuments that fall into the category of 100,000 acres or larger and the modification was significant.  But by and large, it’s the bookends we talked about.

I think the concern that I have and the President has that when you designate a monument, the local community that’s affected should have a voice.  And he said that in the campaign, he said that American citizens should have a voice.  The little community, the loggers, the fishermen, those areas that are affected should have a say and a voice.

And so, again, this executive order doesn’t predispose any action other than having the Secretary that he chose — me –review them.  And I’m going to review it in a transparent matter to make sure, A, we have a voice, the process is transparent.  And at the end of it, we’re going to follow the law as Teddy Roosevelt laid out.

Q    Just want to get back to concern swirling around the EO.  What’s your response to people who believe that the review is setting the stage for an assault on public lands for the purposes of oil and gas development?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  I’ve heard that many times about — and I think it’s the modern media that we live in today.  We’re so polarized as a country, and action is perceived as doing something that’s not — and this, the executive order is carefully crafted to review.  It doesn’t predispose an outcome.  

Again, the President — I was honored to be chosen and confirmed as his Secretary of Interior.  I’ve laid out my beliefs, as well as the President shares, about public land.  But again, the core of this is to make sure the public has a voice.  That’s who I work for.  That’s who the President works for, is the people.  And that’s — love to get the people a voice on that.  But I think it’s a false narrative that we’re going to predispose any particular action until the review.

Q    Are you anticipating any legal challenges from environmental groups?  And what are you doing to prepare for some pretty staunch opposition from some of these groups opposed to the President’s —

SECRETARY ZINKE:  It’s interesting, in the first days of my office, I think I got sued six times before lunch.  So prudent public policy should be the right policy, and I’m not in fear of getting sued.  I get sued all the time.  I don’t think lawsuits should shape public policy.  I think our public policy should do what’s right.  The courts are free to challenge, and we live in a great country that people are free to challenge.  I’m not going to make my judgments on the basis of getting sued or not sued doing the right thing.  

Q    Mr. Secretary, you referred to lost jobs.  Could you provide a concrete example, going back to 1996, of where there’s community that — in terms of net job loss, it exceeded the gains from being designated a national monument?  And in terms of your recommendations, obviously, you and White House officials have indicated that it might include legislative recommendations.  To what extent do you think Congress is the one that should redraw the lines based on community input, as opposed to, say, the White House and the Interior Department redrawing any lines for these monuments?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  Great question.  Jobs, that’s part of the study we’re going to look at.  Because you have, on the side — some jobs would probably be created by recreation opportunities.  So in the parks, we had 330 million visitors last year.  Some of our parks alone are at record capacity.  And so I was this morning in our parks, and I think our economic driver is at $34.9 billion a year.  And if you look at the recreation industry, it’s quite a bit more than that.

So there’s jobs across — we’ll look at what sectors were affected, plus or minus, and that will be part of the recommendation.  I can’t give you any numbers until we look at it, but jobs — I recognize on both sides.  

Secondly, I’m sorry, your second point was?

Q    My second question is, to what extent should it be Congress that actually redraws the lines for any of these monuments, or to what extent do you think that the White House and the Interior Department can unilaterally redraw them?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  From an Antiquities Act point — this is — the President has singular authority.  But I think the philosophy on public lands should be what’s inscribed in the Roosevelt Arch, Yellowstone Park — it’s for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.  That’s what’s ascribed in stone at the Yellowstone Arch.  And oddly enough, in one of the pillars, it says “Enacted by Congress.”

So I think it’s appropriate, the three branches of government — at least the Congress and the President — should work together.  Certainly in Utah, you have a congressional delegation — this is the two we’ve talked about in Utah.  I think that the delegation that represents the people should be coordinated with, the governor should be coordinated — and the principals on the ground on both sides, their voice needs to be heard.

Q    Yes, thank you.  Is it your opinion that (inaudible) will be used in the Antiquities Act?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  Well, certainly, that’s a concern.  If you’re out in Utah, the Utah legislature — on a state side, they’re vehemently opposed to it.  Those out in the West would probably say it’s abused.  My position is I’m going into it and evaluating on a legal basis, and making sure people have a say.  But I’m not going in with a political judgment either way.  I just want to make a firm judgment based on the facts on the ground and giving people a voice.  

Certainly the governor is going to have an influence.  Jobs are going to have an influence.  The congressional folks are going to have an influence on it.  But given my personality, I’m going to be transparent about it.

And, sir, I’m going to give you the last question.

Q    Thank you.  So you said there’s going to be a 45-day interim review.  We’ve seen the President sign other executive orders where he just asks for a final review.  Is there a particular reason why there’s a shorter window for that —

SECRETARY ZINKE:  The 45-day review is pretty much centered on Bears Ears, because that’s the most current one.  My obligation is to wrap up at least my recommendation in 120 days.  The recommendation I could save for further review.  

So that’s part of it, is I have some latitude as the Secretary to look at whether I have the facts on the ground.  Again, a lot of it’s going to be driven on talking to elected officials, local governments, the stakeholders, and making a reasonable decision so we, the people, have a voice.  

And I think it’s appropriate to — a couple mentions whether the President — this President has some plan to sell or transfer public lands — no.  This executive order simply, I think, initiates a review, which is appropriate.  When an  administration comes in — a new administration, that was one of his campaign promises.  He’s delivering on a promise.  He selected me to review it.  I may be the most popular individual in the world, or I may be the most unpopular position in the world, but it’s a job that — I can’t be more thrilled being the Secretary of Interior.  I mean, to be the steward of a fifth of our country and the majesty — it’s an enormous responsibility, but also it’s a gift.  So I’m going to use that authority I think to the benefit of us all.  

So thank you, everybody.

Q    Just to clear up, do you expect to have a decision on Bears Ears in 45 days?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  I expect to have a recommendation.

Q    A recommendation on Bears Ears in 45 days.


Q    And are you planning on going in that amount of time?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  I am going to be out there.  There’s no doubt I’m going out there.  And I would have been sooner, but we had the first Cabinet meeting.  I was delayed in the hearings.  So no doubt that my travel schedule is going to be busier than it already is.

Q    Mr. Secretary, just on (inaudible) — can you just say anything about your philosophy about that upcoming executive order, which we also expect this year?

MS. WALTERS:  We’ll be able to comment on that on Thursday.  We’re going to put together a background briefing.  Thank you.

SECRETARY ZINKE:  Keep the faith.  It’s all good.

Q    Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  

Q    Thank you.    


Oversight Hearing on the Consequences of Executive Branch Overreach of the Antiquities Act

Oversight Hearing on the Consequences of Executive Branch Overreach of the Antiquities Act 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 10:00 AM
Subcommittee on Federal Lands
1324 Longworth House Office Building Washington D.C. 20515 

On Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 10:00 a.m., in Room 1324 Longworth House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands will hold an oversight hearing entitled “Examining the Consequences of Executive Branch Overreach of the Antiquities Act.”

Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Executive Order on the Antiquities Act

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mike.  He’s been a great Vice President, a great help.  And everybody loves Mike Pence.  I just want to thank you for your service.  Been incredible.  (Applause.) 

It’s a real pleasure to be at the Department of Interior, where you help preserve the splendor and the beauty of America’s natural resources.  And I can tell you the group that’s in here right now, they really do the job.  Right, Lisa?  They’re doing a good job.  We’re going to take care of Alaska, too.  Don’t worry about it.  (Laughter.)  And they protect the ability of the people to access and utilize the land which truly belongs to them and belongs to all of us.

Secretary Ryan Zinke is doing an incredible job — and he never overlooks the details.  He’s a detail person.  Soon after he was confirmed, we had a snowstorm, big one, and he was out there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial shoveling the snow all by himself.  And he’s a strong guy.  He did a good job.  (Laughter.)  He did a very, very good job.  But we’re proud of him.

In the first 100 days, we have taken historic action to eliminate wasteful regulations.  They’re being eliminated like nobody has ever seen before.  There has never been anything like it.  Sometimes I look at some of the things I’m signing I say maybe people won’t like it, but I’m doing the right thing.  And no regular politician is going do it.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you folks would do — I will tell you literally some politicians have said, you’re doing the right thing.  I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do some of these things.  But we’re doing them because it’s the right thing to do.  And it’s for the good of the nation.

We’re returning power back to the people.  We’ve eliminated job-destroying regulations on farmers, ranchers, and coal miners, on autoworkers, and so many other American workers and businesses.

Today, I am signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power, and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.

The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as the Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control — have you heard about that? — eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land. 

Today, we are putting the states back in charge.  It’s a big thing.

I am pleased to be joined by so many members of Congress and governors who have been waiting for this moment, including Governor Herbert of Utah.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.  Governor LePage of Maine, who, by the way, has lost a lot of weight.  (Laughter.)  I knew him when he was heavy, and now I know him when he’s thin, and I like him both ways, okay?  (Laughter.)  Done a great job.  Governor Calvo of Guam.  Thank you.  Governor Torres from the Northern Mariana Islands.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.

I also want to recognize Senator Orrin Hatch, who — believe me, he’s tough.  He would call me and call me and say, you got to do this.  Is that right, Orrin?

SENATOR HATCH:  That’s right.  

THE PRESIDENT:  You didn’t stop.  He doesn’t give up.  And he’s shocked that I’m doing it, but I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.  But I really have to point you out, you didn’t stop.  

And, Mike, the same thing.  So many people feel — Mike Lee — so many people feel so strongly about this, and so I appreciate your support and your prodding, and your never-ending prodding, I should say, because we’re now getting something done that many people thought would never ever get done, and I’m very proud to be doing it in honor of you guys, okay?  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

Altogether, the previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres — that’s a lot of land, million acres.  Think of it — 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation.  That’s larger than the entire state of Texas.

In December of last year alone, the federal government asserted this power over 1.35 million acres of land in Utah, known as Bears Ears — I’ve heard a lot about Bears Ears, and I hear it’s beautiful — over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah.  The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice. 

I’ve spoken with many state and local leaders — a number of them here today — who care very much about preserving our land, and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab.  And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we’re going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place.  This should never have happened.   

That’s why today I am signing this order and directing Secretary Zinke to end these abuses and return control to the people — the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States. 

Every day, we are going to continue pushing ahead with our reform agenda to put the American people back in charge of their government and their lives.  

And again, I want to congratulate the Secretary.  I want to congratulate Orrin and Mike and all of the people that worked so hard on bringing it to this point.  And tremendously positive things are going to happen on that incredible land, the likes of which there is nothing more beautiful anywhere in the world.  But now tremendously positive things will happen.

So I want to thank you.  I want to thank everybody for being here.  God bless you all and God bless America.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  So I’ll sign.

(The executive order is signed.)  (Applause.) 

Q    Are you surprised about this 9th Circuit ruling?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m never surprised by the 9th Circuit.  (Laughter.)  As I said, we’ll see them in the Supreme Court.  (Laughter and applause.) 

11:42 A.M. EDT

Committee Leaders Request Information from EPA Regarding Grant Management Process

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt seeking information regarding the process by which EPA closes out its grants.

“For the past decade, investigations and reports by the Committee, Office of Inspector General, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) have uncovered waste and mismanagement in EPA’s grant programs,” write Walden, Murphy, and Shimkus. “This comes in light of a 2016 GAO report that found $994 million in expired grant accounts at the federal entities it reviewed. Because EPA was not among the agencies GAO examined, questions remain about whether EPA properly manages its grant closeouts. This is crucial given that EPA awards almost half of its budget, approximately $4 billion annually, in grants.”

The members continue, “While EPA has made some improvements, recent reports continue to show the need for improved grant practices, including EPA grant money apparently spent by a subgrantee for political advocacy, a state grant recipient accumulating millions of dollars in unspent grant funds while continuing to receive additional money, and concerns that EPA could improve grant monitoring practices.”

The committee requested EPA provide documents to assist in its oversight of whether or not the agency is properly closing out grants in a manner that is timely and efficient. The committee requested:

  1. Reports from EPA’s cash management systems and grant management systems of all expired grant accounts from FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014, and FY 2015.
  2. All documents relating to expired grant accounts, including how long the accounts have been expired, whether an extension on the period of performance has been given, total monthly banking fees for each expired grant, and any information regarding the reason the grant was not closed out in a timely manner.
  3. All final reports, performance reports, and progress reports submitted for each of the expired grant accounts.
  4. A list of all grant applicants and grantees designated as high risk, including information relating to any additional monitoring conducted on high risk grantees.

To read the letter online, click here.