The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers announced plans Tuesday to rescind the controversial “waters of the U.S” rule adopted in 2015 under the previous administration.
"We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses," said EPA 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."
Agricultural groups, which have fought the rule for years, applauded the news.
“Farmers and ranchers across this country are cheering EPA’s proposal today to ditch its flawed waters of the U.S. rule,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.
As directed by President Donald Trump’s February executive order, the agencies on Tuesday proposed two separate rulemaking steps. They include:
1. Rescinding the WOTUS rule put in place under the previous administration and re-codifying the regulatory language that existed before the 2015 rule. “This action, when final, will not change the current practice with respect to how the definition applies,” EPA said in a news release.
2. Re-evaluating and revising the definition of “waters of the U.S.” Trump directed the agencies to review the final rule for its consistency with the following policy stated in the order: “It is in the national interest to ensure that 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 played by Congress and the states under the constitution,” the order states.
Each new rule will require a separate comment period.
The rule has been challenged by various trade associations, states and environmental groups. In a separate matter, 18 states challenged the validity of the final rule. Their cases were consolidated and transferred to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered a nationwide stay while it decides whether it has jurisdiction over the matter.
“As written, the rule created confusion and regulatory liability for farmers and landowners, while providing both the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers unlimited authority to regulate at their discretion. It was really nothing but a land grab,” said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. “Illinois Farm Bureau looks forward to working with the administration and other stakeholders to write a new rule that protects our nation’s waters without penalizing farmers.”