President Trump has spent a lot of time on the links in his first six months in office, and almost all of it has been at golf courses that bear his name. The Trump Organization owns 12 golf courses within the United States, and the President has been shamelessly promoting them since he took office, calling, for example, his Bedminster course the “Summer White House.”
Now, thanks to an Executive Order signed by President Trump in February, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are poised to give a huge break to the President’s golf courses by rolling back a key part of the Clean Water Act known as the “waters of the United States” rule. Today, the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register, and the only good news is that you now have 30 days to tee off on Trump’s attempt to line his own pockets while making drinking water less safe for 117 million people.
There are a lot of problems with this rulemaking. First, it attempts to undo a rule that was carefully crafted to bring certainty to a murky area of the law, protect millions of people, and carefully balance costs and benefits. The existing rule is also currently being reviewed by the 6th Circuit, and the legal thicket that will ensue if the court affirms the rule is immense. But the issue that has Free Speech For People wading in here is that the benefits that Trump’s golf courses stand to gain from his order to rescind the rule run afoul of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause provides:
“The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”
The Domestic Emoluments Clause explicitly prohibits the U.S. government, and any of the states, from conferring additional benefits upon the President, and there can be no doubt that this proposed rule would constitute a huge hand-out to Trump’s golf courses at the expense of the health and safety of the nation. Under the current rule, Trump’s golf courses would be required to take actions to preserve and protect water quality under Sections 402 and 404 of the Clean Water Act. That could range from applying for permits when planning to develop new areas or re-develop existing sites to taking actions to ensure that applications of pesticides and fertilizers don’t jeopardize water quality. It would also open up new avenues for citizens to hold Trump’s golf courses accountable in court for violations of the Clean Water Act. All of those actions add up to significant financial commitments to protect clean water that would be zeroed out by the proposed rule.
Make your voice heard, and tell the EPA that you won’t stand for Trump’s national water hazard. Send in a public comment opposing the rule today.