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D.C. News

published: September 20th 2019

WOTUS revoked

On Sept. 12th, a 2015 rule that expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act was formally revoked.

The formal announcement repealing WOTUS was made jointly by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Adminis-trator, Andrew Wheeler, and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James, in Washing-ton, D.C. and broadcast live via Facebook.

Wheeler said there will be a two-step rulemaking process to redefine the scope of WOTUS.

“Today’s step 1 action fulfills a key promise of President Trump and sets the stage for step 2—a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home build-ers, and developers nationwide,” he noted.

According to an EPA news release, the two federal district courts that have reviewed the merits of the 2015 rule found that the rule suffered from certain errors and issued orders remanding the 2015 rule back to the agencies. Multiple other federal district courts have preliminarily enjoined the 2015 rule, citing its failures.

U.S. Secretary of Agri-culture Sonny Perdue praised the EPA for taking another step to fulfill President Trump’s pledge to repeal and replace the WOTUS rule.

“Repealing the WO TUS rule is a major win for American agriculture. The extreme overreach from the past administration had government taking the productivity of the land people had worked for years,” Secretary Perdue said. “Farmers and ranchers are exceptional stewards of the land, taking great care to preserve it for generations to come. President Trump is making good on his promise to reduce burdensome regulations to free our producers to do what they do best – feed, fuel, and clothe this nation and the world.”  

The National Associa-tion of Conservation Dis-tricts (NACD) issued the following  statement re-garding  the repeal  decision 

“Since the WOTUS rule was proposed in 2014, NACD has been working continuously to advocate for its reversal,” NACD President Tim Palmer said. “Yesterday's announcement is a positive step forward for locally-led conservation and brings a greater level of certainty for producers and landowners who are stewards of our land and water.”

The full repeal of the 2015 rule brings all 50 states back under regulations that have been in effect since the 1980s.

“For more than 75 years, conservation districts have been leaders in locally-led efforts to ensure a clean and sustainable water supply for the nation,” Palmer said. “The nation’s nearly 3,000 conservation districts and the landowners they work with are the best equipped to handle local decision-making, and we applaud the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers for reversing the 2015 rule.”

Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening issued this statement:

"This rule, as conceived, was arbitrary, overreaching and unnecessary. After studying it in detail, Texas Farm Bureau was convinced that many normal and environmentally-sound farming practices would be difficult or impossible.

"Farmers and ranchers remain committed to clean water and sustainable farming practices. We do not, however, need the federal government to exercise an arbitrary veto over basic farming decisions.

"We expect that EPA will formulate a new rule. We look forward to participating in that process, working with the Trump administration and all stakeholders in clean water rules and law. Texas farm and ranch families are devoted to clean water for all, including water supplies on their own land. The new rule can be achieved without crippling, arbitrary fines or measures that will make it almost impossible to conduct agricultural enterprises." 

Background as provided by USDA:

One of President Trump’s earliest acts in office was an Executive Order directing EPA and the Army Corps to review and potentially replace the Obama Administration’s definition of the “Waters of the United States.” The EPA and the Army Corps have repealed the 2015 Rule that impermissibly expanded the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The agencies upcoming action will restore the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 Rule and will end the inconsistent regulatory patchwork that has created uncertainty and has hindered projects from moving forward that can benefit both the environment and the economy. The repeal remedies the legal and procedural deficiencies of the 2015 Rule, addresses the extensive litigation surrounding it, and recodifies and restores a regulatory process that has been in place for years. The new rule will provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses as to the definition of “Waters of the United States.”

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