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Carolyn Kaster / AP

The White House begins attacking President Obama's specific environmental policies today with an executive order that launches the process of killing regulations designed to provide expansive federal water-quality protections.

Why it matters: The Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule is a top target of Republicans and various industry interests, such as agriculture and home building groups, who say Obama's EPA grabbed power to regulate a vast array of minor streams and wetlands in a way that far exceeds what Congress allowed under the Clean Water Act. Politically, Trump's order attacking WOTUS allows the White House to get Republicans all over the Capitol on the same page about at least one thing at a time when they're splintered over tax reform and replacing Obamacare.

The executive order is only the beginning of what's likely a lengthy bureaucratic slog to abandon the rule. It's one that will likely face legal opposition from environmentalists, who say President Trump's EPA will thwart protections for smaller or intermittent but important bodies of water that are critical to health of major waterways.

The order instructs EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rescind or revise the rule. A senior White House official said the Justice Department will back away from the legal defense — implementation has been stayed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Between the lines: A draft of the order viewed by Axios plants the seeds for much more limited Clean Water Act oversight, and does it with a shout out to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

It calls on the agencies, when crafting a new measure, to use the scope of regulation called for by Scalia's opinion written for a plurality of justices in a splintered 2006 decision on the topic. The late justice, citing Webster's dictionary, wrote that Clean Water Act regulation should be limited to "only relatively permanent, standing or flowing bodies of water," which means "water as found in 'streams,' 'oceans,' 'rivers,' 'lakes,' and 'bodies' of water 'forming geographical features.'"

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

3 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 4 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

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