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Trump Administration Says WOTUS Is On Its Way Out

The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are moving to rescind the 2015 Clean Water Rule, created under the Obama administration, to clarify which waters are federally protected from pollution under the original 1972 Clean Water Act. A statement from the agencies calls the rule, known as Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, an example of federal overreach.

“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 (shown at right). “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 reevaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent, and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

According to Ginny McCarthy, former EPA administrator under President Obama, the rule extended federal oversight into new waterways by only 3%, though large agribusiness concerns and other industries have questioned that number. 

“[T]his rule was never really about clean water,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation in a statement, in response to news that the rule would be reversed. “It was a federal land grab designed to put a straitjacket on farming and private businesses across this nation. That’s why our federal courts blocked it from going into effect for the past two years. Today’s announcement shows EPA Administrator Pruitt recognizes the WOTUS rule for what it is — an illegal and dangerous mistake that needs to be corrected.”

More than one third of the U.S. population, some 117 million people, rely at least in part on drinking water from sources the rule is designed to protect, said the EPA during the Obama administration.

When the regulation was released, the EPA published a fact sheet clarifying that the rule “does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions. It does not regulate most ditches and does not regulate groundwater, shallow subsurface flows, or tile drains. It does not make changes to current policies on irrigation or water transfers or apply to erosion in a field.”

During the campaign, candidate Trump promised to do away with the rule, and by the time he was elected, nearly 30 states had filed lawsuits against the regulation.

Environmental groups have reacted strongly to the new administration’s news. “Although far from perfect, the Clean Water Rule was a step in the right direction. Now Trump wants to take giant steps backwards in clean water protections, back to the days of massive fish kills and rivers on fire. With each day in office, Trump is firmly cementing his place in history as the worst environmental president to ever hold office,” said a statement from Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

FERN’s Ag Insider. Produced by FERN
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