EPA, Army move to rescind WOTUS | TSLN.com

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EPA, Army move to rescind WOTUS

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Army and Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) are proposing a rule to rescind the Clean Water Rule and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015 defining "Waters of the United States," or WOTUS. This action would, when finalized, provide certainty in the interim, pending a second rulemaking in which the agencies will engage in a substantive re-evaluation of the definition of "waters of the United States." The proposed rule would be implemented in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidance and longstanding practice.

"We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses," said Administrator Scott Pruitt. "This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine 'waters of the U.S.' and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public."

This proposed rule follows the Feb. 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule." The February Order states it is in the national interest to ensure the nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the states under the Constitution. To meet these objectives, the agencies intend to follow an expeditious, two-step process that will provide certainty across the country.

The proposed rule would recodify the identical regulatory text that was in place prior to the 2015 Clean Water Rule and that is currently in place as a result of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit's stay of the 2015 rule. Therefore, this action, when final, will not change current practice with respect to how the definition applies.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses. This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.” Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator

The agencies also have begun deliberations and outreach on the second step rulemaking involving a re-evaluation and revision of the definition of "waters of the United States" in accordance with the Executive Order.

"The Army, together with the Corps of Engineers, is committed to working closely with and supporting the EPA on these rulemakings. As we go through the rulemaking process, we will continue to make the implementation of the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program as transparent as possible for the regulated public, " said Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

For the pre-publication Federal Register Notice and additional information: http://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule F

–Environmental Protection Agency

Industry reactions:

“The proposal to rescind this flawed rule is a step in the right direction. This rule was a land grab that put property rights of Wyomingites at risk and would have done nothing to benefit water.”

“We are hopeful the EPA will keep in mind the uniqueness of each state and work with the states rather than continuing to dictate rules with the goal of controlling property rights.” – Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President

“Some of our members have met with Administrator Pruitt to tell their personal stories of how WOTUS would have a detrimental effect on their farm or ranch,” the Ravalli County diversified rancher said. “Of course, farmers and ranchers want clean water, but the regulation of puddles and irrigation ditches was certainly an overreach of federal power. Montana Farm Bureau is extremely pleased with this announcement.” – Hans McPherson, Montana Farm Bureau Federation President

“This is another great step in the right direction, and the Administration deserves a great deal of credit for injecting some much-needed common sense into our nation’s environmental policies. It’s important to remember, though, that this rule isn’t dead yet. The rulemaking process continues, and NCBA will submit and solicit additional comments on behalf of America’s cattle producers so that they finally get the sanity and clarity they need on land use policy.” – Craig Uden, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President

“This over-reaching rule was unworkable for folks across North Dakota—and today’s action is a step toward fixing it. Farmers and ranchers can’t put a crop in the ground or raise livestock without certainty about how regulations impact them, which is why undoing this rule is so critical. Particularly with tough commodity prices and drought in North Dakota, I’ll fight to guarantee farmers and ranchers the long-term regulatory relief they need.” – Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat, N.D.