The POTUS and the WOTUS

People keep saying that they don’t understand it. The President of the US (POTUS) does something that that for an ordinary politician would be fatal, like say attacking his own AG … and his support among his followers doesn’t change one bit. The media declares themselves mystified by this, the Democrats can’t understand it, the talking heads can’t figure it out. The consensus seems to be that Trump supporters are just fanatical … not.

Me, I call the reason for this unchanged support the WOTUS Effect. And legislators and media people generally don’t understand the WOTUS Effect because of the coastal bubble that so many commenters inhabit.

So … what is the WOTUS when it is at home? It is a piece of bureaucratic overreach whose full name is the Waters Of The US rule, or WOTUS … still haven’t heard of it? That’s part of the WOTUS effect.

Here’s the backstory. The Environmental Protection Agency was originally created to clean up what at the time was a fairly dirty environment. And at first, it did good work, cleaning up our air and water.

However, once its job was mostly done, the usual governmental nonsense set in. Over the years, in true bureaucratic fashion, the EPA has expanded its jurisdiction. And at the same time it has become unbelievably corrupt, with the leaders in bed with environmental groups, cutting corrupt deals with them using secret and illegal email channels,  and engaging in the vile “Sue And Settle” practice.

Not only that, but they use “independent” scientific data that comes from groups on their payroll. That doesn’t even mention their immoral and illegal practice of exposing people to what they claim is “deadly” PM2.5 particulate matter to try to justify its regulation. However, real science shows no such effect of PM 2.5.

And as a result, out in the countryside where the regulatory rubber hits the road, the EPA has become one of the more hated branches of the US Government. People can smell the rot from miles away.

So with that as a backdrop, we come to the WOTUS question. When the EPA was created, it was given jurisdiction over the “navigable waters” of the US. Now, that has a clear meaning that is defined by US Law, viz:

CFR › Title 33 › Chapter II › Part 329 › Section 329.4

33 CFR 329.4 – General definition.

Navigable waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the waterbody, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity.

Simple enough. “Navigable waters” are the ocean plus rivers big enough for commercial boats. That’s what Congress said the EPA had jurisdiction over.

But noooo, the EPA decided that wasn’t enough for them. So by bureaucratic fiat alone, they decided that their jurisdiction ALSO included all of the smaller streams and creeks, under the rubric that they were “connected to” the navigable waters … and to its shame, rather than kick it back to Congress, a very liberal Supreme Court rolled over and played dead when people complained.

And while you think the EPA folks would be happy with that, noooo, that wasn’t enough. So the EPA put forth a regulation called the WOTUS rule, which extended the EPA’s already broad over-reach to include even ditches, seasonal ponds, and temporary wetlands. Basically, if you spit on your land, they could come and regulate it as part of the waters of the US.

Now, does this have any effect within the great Democratic stronghold of the coastal cities? Heck, no. It means zip to a city dweller.

But for a farmer in Nebraska or a rancher in Idaho, this change basically meant that the already-hated EPA could send a heavily armed agent on to their farm or ranch at any time, force them to change what they were doing, and arrest them and try them if they refused.

And they were both very mad and very scared.

wotus II

To understand the feeling of the farmers and ranchers, imagine what would happen if the EPA tried that in the cities. I mean, you have water in your faucets that is connected to some navigable river somewhere, and that tenuous connection was the exact justification for the WOTUS rule extending EPA jurisdiction to ditches and seasonal wetlands.

So, suppose the EPA asserted that they could send an armed agent to enter your house at any time to examine your faucets and toilets … no question you’d be very mad and very afraid too.

Given all that, what is it that I am calling the WOTUS Effect?

Within about a month of taking office, the President issued the “Presidential Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” Rule”. Eventually, this will lead to the total rejection of the WOTUS rule.

And make no mistake. Even though you likely never heard of this, for many, many Trump supporters this was huge news. There was rejoicing everywhere except the blue city bubbles. So here’s what I’m calling the WOTUS Effect.

If a man frees you from something that made you both mad and scared, he’s secured your vote for a long time.


Me, I’m in the same situation regarding not only the WOTUS rule but also a couple of other issues. I was both mad and scared by Democrat’s support for the “TPP”, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It was to be an extension of the horrendous NAFTA-style globalization that has already badly damaged the US economy. I was terrified that I would be passing on to my descendants a twenty trillion dollar debt, and doing it with the US manufacturing sector basically destroyed. That is a recipe for the end of the US.

I was also afraid of what would happen to our judiciary if Hillary were elected. Instead, we got Neal Gorsuch. Me, I’m a four-corners textualist, so once again President Trump allayed my fears.

All of this meant that when Trump kept his promises and ended the WOTUS push and canned the TPP and got Gorsuch confirmed, he secured my vote for quite a while.

Now, of course, there are limits to the WOTUS Effect. I’m not into “high crimes and misdemeanors”, that’s what impeachment is for.

But at this point, I and many other voters don’t care one whit what happens with the bogus Russian hype for which we have zero evidence, or with the White House intrigue that has the talking heads perpetually exploding, or with the various daily legislative and media conniption fits.

We’ve won big already, so we’re willing to overlook what to us are trivial issues.

Best to all,


PS—I have been an environmentalist since the time of Rachel Carlson, although not a follower of hers … but not one of the watermelon environmentalist, green on the outside and red on the inside. So this is not an argument against true environmentalism, which I support. Instead, it is an indictment of the venal, corrupt EPA, where people pretend to have the moral high ground while they work against our national and environmental interests.

43 thoughts on “The POTUS and the WOTUS

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Willis, regarding your take on the EPA. As an eminent domain attorney, I have had to deal with state EPA-like agencies and the EPA’s “enforcer,” the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and they are all the same. The bureaucratic extension of navigable waters to isolated water bodies and wetlands has been an outrageous abuse.


  2. Don’t forget the Gold King Mine disaster. Not only can they threaten *you* if you mess with the waters, but they can deny any culpability if if they’re the ones who did it…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, let them talking heads keep on exploding. After all this time those pompous asses still don’t get it … Mr. Trump may be in politics, but he’s not a politician. He doesn’t take the measure of every syllable and check with focus groups to see which way the wind is blowing every hour on the hour. As had been said more than once, his supporters take him seriously but not literally, so his wildly outrageous statements may keep the networks all in a tizzy, but we know better … misdirection works wonders when trying to gets major things done.


  4. Net neutrality might be another area for which we can breathe a sigh of relief. (See Watts Up With That ‘Battle for the Net’.) There were many misgivings expressed a year ago, but, sadly, they petered out as a topic. Oh, and climate shenanigans, and…
    It is great that change in some policy areas have been so effective in shoring up the support needed to make changes in other areas.


  5. Five Stars for this post, Willis! You really nailed this one.

    The corruption and collusion between EPA, DOJ, and various environmental activist groups has been particularly egregious, and I thank you for pointing it out. It’s even a bit more awful than it seems on its face.

    At first glance, it’s a wink-wink-nod sort of thing, where EPA staff talks to environmental groups “unoficially” and basically says they’d really like to regulate some practices more heavily, but they simply can’t because they have no law on the books that says they can. The environmental groups take the hint, file suit, and EPA settles with a binding consent agreement to do the very things they said they could not.

    The bad part about this is the settlement terms, which include not only the agreement to regulate, but also to pay the plaintiff for their various court costs and attorneys’ fees. A lot of these suits have been quite similar to one another, but for some reason the consent agreement includes the provision that EPA will reimburse the costs and fees as though each suit was completely original work effort by the plaintiff. As a result, we have had what I call “cookie-cutter” lawsuits for which much of the work is copied from previous suits, and only a few details were changed. The settlement money then goes into the pockets of the plaintiff to fund yet more of these cookie-cutter travesties.



  6. I just wish he could be a bit more Reagan-like in building the coalition necessary for a feckless GOP to do what it’s promised to do for eight years. Sadly, he doesn’t appear to have the temperament for it. I fear at some point the Board of Directors (Party leadership) will defect totally from its CEO, join the rebelling stockholders (the other Party), and cut him off.


    • He appears to still be operating in CEO mode, i.e. “If you’re not going to help get out of the damned way!”. I don’t know if he has the personality to be more Reagan-like, rising from military prep school BMOC (& bully?) through 40-45 years of having to deal with big city bureaucrats and construction union foremen. But, at least it’s entertaining to watch, and I do wish him luck.


  7. Drip, drip, drip my leaky faucet is an environmental hazard, worthy of Federal Government corrective action. There is no boundary for EPA regulations. Where do I get my water to my leaky faucet, from the environment of course. Lakes, rivers, streams, and then there is the rain and the sky and clouds and clouds of water vapor.

    So, I guess those at the EPA are correct, regulation of the land and its waters, sea as it courses from pole to pole, and air that we not only breath but that air that reaches to the far boundaries of space. Quite insightful of those EPA people.


  8. At least in the old days when you saw the snake-oil salesman coming down the drive you could hide in the barn until he left. Nowadays the snake-oil bureaucrats use aerial drones to spy on law-abiding citizens on private property, thereafter bringing the armed forces to open the barn door, drag you out by your feet, and under threat of seizure and fines demand to know what you plan to do about the tractor tire tracks you put through the recently created rainstorm mud hole out in the back forty when plowing the Spring fields. The EPA (among other useless “agencies”) needs to go away, tomorrow.


      • Does not surprise me…many moons ago my dad would say, “If the bureaucrats could figure out how to tax the air they would.” Well…under the guise of “your pickup pollutes more than that guy’s environmentally sensitive Prius”, carbon taxes were born. Gotta give them props for creativity, but surely overreach has gone miles too far when everyday normal life is now under EPA punative regulation.


  9. I voted for content over style.. I saw what style and bad content got us… I also like your watermelon environmentist description.. I supported the environmental moverment until I felt it went off the rails saying we would all freeze to death due to a trace gas from our AC… that is when I became a big time skeptic of the “environmental sciences”

    One experience I keep recallaing is visiting the Smithsonian Natural History museum and spending time at the exhibit depicting the coming ice age due to the the man caused damage to the ozone layer, while at the same time James Hansen was tesiftying to congress that man made CO2 would fry and flood us.. one thing you can say about government is that is sure ain’t nimble…


  10. Anyone who thinks that free trade has in any way damaged the US economy or that its manufacturing sector is in decline is simply an economics illiterate who should be ignored.


    • Cytotoxic, I fear that what you have offered is an “ad hominem” argument which is nothing but fact free mud slinging. And my rule of thumb is, “When a man starts slinging mud … it’s a clear sign he’s out of real ammunition.”

      Manufacturing is most definitely in decline. In 1980 there were about 20 million manufacturing jobs. Today there are about 6 million. That’s called a decline, and it is reflected in shuttered factories all across the rust belt.

      In addition, it is reflected in the static wages of the middle class. We’ve thrown thousands and thousands of manufacturing workers out of jobs. Following the inexorable laws of supply and demand, an oversupply of labor drives wages down.

      It is also reflected in our balance of trade. Since the imposition of NAFTA and the globalization starting in the 1980s, we’ve gone from balanced foreign trade to three quarters of a trillion dollar ANNUAL trade deficit. We are hemorrhaging money like there is no tomorrow … and you think everything is fine.

      Next, one of the world’s better-known economists is the author of How Rich Countries Got Rich … and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor. You really, really should read it before you further expose your lack of knowledge of the subject. As Maurice Switzer said in a quote often attributed to Mark Twain, “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”

      Finally, I discuss these issues here, here, here, and here.

      Once you have read the book, or at a minimum all of the linked posts which discuss these ideas, and you actually know something about the subject, I invite you to come back and discuss the issues rather than insult the participants.




      • Nice response…our current President has said as much, maybe not as eloquently, but the result is the same: American manufacturing jobs are at an all time low and trade deficits are massive.


  11. I often read the comments ( and write a few also) on Fox News stories at It is amazing how many liberals constantly spew forth the mantra that Trump has done nothing yet and is a complete failure. They get this from the MSM and they swallow it hook,line and sinker.


  12. From an interested foreigner, resident in New Zealand. Have the cities of the U S no canals and navigable rivers with small private boats on them?
    How did the private boat owners react to this sweeping EPA take over of navigable waterways?
    Maybe they can join in the relief which country people will be feeling when it’s all swept out of the way.
    It’s always good to have allies.


  13. People above mention spiralling US debt and sweetheart arrangements.
    Pardon my ignorance, but only this week I learned there was a United Nations University.
    The US pays to keep the UN going. The UN takes some funds, seta up its own University, Japan 1973. Interesting when you read the main aims, most of which now center on sustainability and the generation of science to be passed on to those who need to be stuffed with material to drive policies. So what if those policies are opposite what US people want. (Just shut up and keep the US dollars flowing.)
    Lovely sweetheart deal, becomes more understandable with the global map of campuses, noting one big cluster in a sparse spread, the cluster just happens to center on Germany……. Shades of Potsdam Institute.
    I have been waiting for the non green side to start to develop bodies like the UNU, but with contrary policies. Seems the green blob has been more clever and forward thinking than the Conservative lot. Time to put more effort into catching up and passing. Quickly. Geoff


  14. Having managed a small family ranch that had fallen into disrepair, it was to the ranch’s benefit and thus the heirs to work on the water systems. While I have seen poor water management by a few land owners, the rank and file majority depend on water in order to stay in business thus they take care of it, even collectively forming local private water companies or co-ops to do more than any one single farmer or rancher could do on his/her own. This is to say that there was no national problem afoot that needed to be addressed at such a level. Simply remove this silly piece of federal overreach.


  15. “I hold that EPA is the most dangerous thing known, the gravest extant threat to humanity.”
    That would actually be the EU. They have multiple EPAs regulating everything with no adult supervision.


  16. Great article, Willis. Thank you for taking the time to write this piece. Been following you since I read your inputs to WUWT. I wish we frequented the same bars. We’d have a blast – especially since we don’t see eye-to-eye perfectly… which is prefect.


  17. Fortunately, POTUS is nullifying WOTUS before the EPA can establish re-education camps for those with the temerity to stand up to the EPA.

    P.S. My wife hand-dug a koi pond when we moved into this house 17 years ago. Neither the EPA nor any other government agency was notified. Mum’s the word 😜


  18. Willis,
    Thanks for a great insight, though I disagree about TTP.

    This post does however raise a question in my mind. If a politician bases his popularity on overcoming something that people feel is a major threat to their well-being, where does that end? Gratitude for the intial victory will fade. In order to maintain polularity, will such a politician will have to keep finding or inventing more threats or groups to fight against?


      • I read that article at the time. The nail-makign machine you praised was probably loathed when it was introduced because it replaced dozens of people earning a living making manual fastenings.

        The problem with protectionism is that after you protect one inefficient producer after another, evenually every everyone gets poorer. The whole world is massively richer now than 40 or 50 years ago with lower mortality and longer life expectencies, and that is largely down to free trade. It also introduces yet more government intervention – something you are against in this very post.

        In any case even protectionism won’t bring back American manufacturing jobs. Automation is removing the need for many manual workers especially in the manufacturing sector.


        • AndyL August 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          In any case even protectionism won’t bring back American manufacturing jobs. Automation is removing the need for many manual workers especially in the manufacturing sector.

          During the campaign, Trump convinced Carrier not to move a plant to Mexico. Did they want to move to Mexico because Mexico has cheap robots?

          Nope. It was because Carrier was going to pay the workers $3 an hour.

          So I’m sorry, but protectionism has already brought back jobs, by Carrier and the others. The factories that moved overseas moved because of low wages and crappy working condition overseas …

          … robots had and have nothing to do with it.

          YES, jobs are being lost to automation. But that is a separate and totally different question which, despite being raised by folks like you every time the free trade question comes up, has exactly ZERO to do with factories moving overseas.

          Meanwhile, the factories moving overseas led to town closings … cheap TVs don’t mean a whole lot when you have no job.

          Best to you,



          • Carrier just laid of 600 workers. I don’t know whether the background supports your argument or mine, but it’s not an example of how “protectionism has already brought back jobs”

            The choice for an American manufacturer will be cheap labour abroad or robots in US. Really, it’s not even robots. It is CNC machines rather than a bank of lathes. Printing parts rather than complex presses. Chips instead of circuit boards – and lots more modern examples than I can think of right now. The number of man-hours needed to produce, say, a car has gone way down

            Then take into account that things last longer. There’s much less need for people to repair cars because break down rates and servicing periods are much longer. I’m sure you know how much less time it takes to maintain a modern boat than an older one.

            Multiply that all up and manufacturing and serviceing jobs are going to hugely decline – free trade or not


          • > The number of man-hours needed to produce, say, a car has gone way down

            costs going down means that it’s easier for small businesses to build things. It used to be that only large companies could design and produce a custom computer or something with a custom case.

            Today, a couple people can design a computer, tell people about it and sell millions of them (raspberry pi in the UK, started with far-east manufacturing, but moved to UK production). There are thousands of people manufacturing things, and sometimes they are using manufacturing overseas, but there are more and more options for manufacturing in the US


          • AndyL August 14, 2017 at 12:15 am

            The choice for an American manufacturer will be cheap labour abroad or robots in US.

            Easy choice. Robots here. But at present, it is still much more economical to go with cheap labor abroad. Why do you think the factories left? It wasn’t because of robotics. Why do you think they haven’t come back? It wasn’t because of robotics.

            People always want to conflate job losses due to robotics with job losses due to factories moving overseas, as though they were the same. They are not, they are very separate and disparate issues.



          • Oh, yeah, AndyL, forgot to say the reason why “robots here” is an obvious choice—because the money and the profits and the products and the associated jobs stay here. Our trade imbalance is huge, three-quarters of a trillion of our precious wealth flowing overseas every year … and eventually, that would kill the country. At least Trump recognizes the danger and is trying to combat it … no thanks to you.

            Best regards,



          • robots here mroduces pay for the robot builders, robot maintainers, robot programmers, facility maintinance, truckers bringing resources to the factory and goods from the factory, etc.

            moving the factory out of the country results in none of this.


          • I’m an engineer in a tier 1 auto supplier and my company has manufacturing here, Mexico and China. We automate what we can. It lessens the chance of human error in assembly. When thing require manual assembly, it goes to Mexico and China to be assembled. If it can be done robotically, we will assemble it here. When we quote to Ford, GM, BMW, Chrysler and Honda, we give a cost for each manufacturing site. More and more components of our products are being made outside the US because it is cheaper and my company is competing with another that makes the same products. Sometimes the manufacturing site has to do with the location of the OEM assembly plant as our Mexico plant is 4 miles from the Ford vehicle assembly plant in Mexico and I think the GM plant is right around that location. Our China plant is close to the GM assembly plant in Shanghai China. If the auto makers build plants back here, that will be good for my location to make and supply parts to the plants here. Some product like our fuel pump controllers are made in all 3 locations to supply the auto plants in those regions.


          • As an example of new production happening in the US is the ability for the small company from this Jay Leno video to exist in the US. They could not have existed even a few years ago, and now they are a 30 person company looking to double their manufacturing capacity.


          • I’m all for promoting and encouraging manufacturing at home for the reasons Willis, Ryan and Davidelang all state. Thanks to automation and flexibiltiy there are all sorts of new possibiltiies. These jobs are numbered in the 10s and 100s – not in the 1000s that an old style manufacturing plant would have had. Those jobs ain’t coming back.

            What you’ve not explained is the leap from the problems of jobs and trade deficit, to the idea that the best solution is to put large taxes on imports, paid for by the American consumer. At the bottom line, that is what protectionism amounts to.


          • the days of massive manufacturing plants with thousands of employees crammed into them are over.

            but 10 companies with 100 people are the same as one company with 1000. Things that used to require big factories and massive investments to make one design can now be done by individuals in their garage.

            We just need to kill of the regulations that discourage such businesses and encourage massive, vertically integrated companies.


  19. Further comment to Ryan
    You point out that sensibly you put your plants near those of the car manuufactuer. Now consider where the end customers are based. US only counts for just under 20% of global car sales, Eurupe (EU28) another 20%. China is 30% and climbing rapidly. No amount of import tax in US is going to persuade a car manufactuer to build all those cars in US.


  20. While I might be inclined to discuss the EPA’s role in America with you, I’m not willing to overlook “White House intrigue” when it comes to criminality. Nobody is above the law. Nor am I willing to stand idly by as our constitutional amendments are chipped away so you can enjoy living in a nationalist country which exists in a global world.


    • Susan, welcome to the blog. However, I fear that that is not clear. What is the “White House intrigue” you are referring to?

      I agree that nobody is against the law.

      And which “constitutional amendments are chipped away”, and what effect do you think that is having?

      Some details would be most useful here.

      My very best to you,



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