WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump will sign a measure on Tuesday directing regulators to review an Obama administration regulation that expanded the number of federally protected waterways, a senior White House official said.
Trump's order will also direct the Justice Department to ask a federal court to put legal challenges to the rule on hold as the administration conducts its review, the official said.
The order will kick off what will likely be a lengthy process to undo the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2015 to clarify which bodies of water are covered by the Clean Water Act.
The rule has faced intense political and legal opposition from Republicans lawmakers, farmers and energy companies. It was blocked by a federal appeals court pending further court challenges.
"The problem with the Obama administration WOTUS rule is that it vastly expands federal jurisdiction into state and local areas and land use decisions," the official said.
The official said that federal law requires that the administration undertake a formal evaluation of the rule before a decision is made about whether to rescind the regulation.
Calling the rule "very large and complex," the official said the review would likely take a "long time to get through."
Critics contend the rule crafted by the Obama administration could apply to ditches and small isolated bodies of water.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told a conservative summit on Saturday that the regulation had "made puddles and dry creek beds across this country subject to the jurisdiction of Washington DC. That's going to change."
The EPA under President Barack Obama said the rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries "because science shows that they impact downstream waters."
Dozens of agricultural groups, states and municipalities had sued to block the rule. The challengers contend the agencies' change improperly expanded federal regulatory power.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)