EPA Sets in Motion Withdrawal of Burdensome Waters of the U.S. Regulation

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Following President Donald Trump’s executive order to review the EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation and the announcement in late June that the work had begun to review it, media outlets are reporting that efforts are now underway to undo the sweeping rule put in place by the Obama administration.

“The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have filed an official proposal to withdraw the 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule due to the concerns of rural America,” the Grand Forks Herald reported on Monday. “EPA now begins a replacement rulemaking process re-evaluating the definition of WOTUS in the Clean Water Act and gathering input from stakeholders.”

“When the Clean Water and Clean Air Act were passed in the 1970s, there was a belief that the states should be an active partner in making sure that we have clear objectives in air and water and working together to achieve those good outcomes,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “But there was also this attitude that said we can grow jobs, grow our economy and protect our environment.”

“The WOTUS Rule was highly controversial and largely opposed by the agricultural community, the Grand Fork Herald reported. “It would have greatly expanded the EPA’s federal jurisdiction and scope of waterbodies that are subject to Clean Water Act requirements.”

The Herald said agricultural groups “are hailing the announcement, saying the administration is injecting some much-needed common sense into the nation’s environmental policies.”

“The signal from the administration clearly is that they understand that the rule is not practical, it is not helpful and they need to not enforce it,” said Daren Coppock, CEO of the Agricultural Retailers Association.

“Farmers are relieved as they feared that creeks, streams, ditches or even potholes on their farm would be subject to the rule, and they could face penalties if they were not in compliance,” said the report.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said the Obama administration put many regulations in place that hurt farmers and ranchers, but that WOTUS was at the top of the list.

“In agriculture you get the wrong regulation that comes out of the federal government and it changes our way of life,” Noem said. “Waters of the U.S. was that way.”

The added costs would have been passed down to consumers in the form of higher food prices, Nom said.

“Sen. John Thune (R-SD) applauded the move by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to initiate the formal process to rescind WOTUS,” the Herald reported.

“I’m glad EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his agency listened to the concerns of rural America and are taking steps to repeal this burdensome rule,” Thune said. “WOTUS was just another example of Obama-era government overreach, which places unnecessary burdens on South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers.”

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to unravel the 2015 ‘Waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) rule last week drew immediate bipartisan support, as the agency took the first concrete procedural steps to revoke the regulation after the Trump administration issued an executive order in February,” the Western Wire reported last week.

“The controversial WOTUS rule grants the EPA authority to reach into backyards, potholes and puddles across the United States, creating what the American Farm Bureau’s counsel called a “potential” liability for small businesses, and farmers and others said [it] would lead to economic “uncertainty” across the country,” the Western Wire reported.

“I strongly support the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. rule,” Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, said. “I am hopeful this action will start the process of bringing much-needed relief for farmers, ranchers, rural businesses and local governments.”

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” Pruitt said in a statement last week.

“Reactions from the West, where the saying ‘water is for fighting over’ is a political truism, showed members of the Congressional Western Caucus, state attorneys general, farmers, ranchers, and small businesses welcoming the move to “ditch the rule,” Western Wire reported.

The Western Wire reported that members of the Congressional Western Caucus praised the EPA’s new direction on WOTUS, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA.), who called the 2015 rule “one of the most burdensome EPA rules” from the previous administration.”

The Obama administration’s WOTUS rule took effect in June 2015, but it was met with litigation and more than half of the states filed suit to stop it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit granted a nationwide stay in October 2015.

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