EPA, Army Begin Process to Repeal WOTUS Regulation

On June 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of the Army, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published a press release stating that they are initiating the first of a two-step process to withdraw and rewrite the 2015 “Waters of the US” (WOTUS) regulation put in place by the Obama administration. President Trump signed an executive order in February, which prompted EPA and USACE to review WOTUS for possible revision or repeal.

The 2015 definition of WOTUS has been controversial since its inception because it allowed for more federal oversight over “ponds, headwaters, wetlands, and other water bodies that feed into larger water areas” to ensure that these resources were being properly maintained. Supporters of the 2015 WOTUS definition argue that the new regulation protected these bodies of water from pollution, which millions of Americans rely on for drinking water. The new definition protects both the wildlife that depend on these waterways and the people that use them for recreation.

The recension of the 2015 definition means that the Clean Water Act will be re-codified to the regulatory text set in place in 2008. The agencies will then have the opportunity to rewrite the WOTUS definition, which is expected to be revealed this fall. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says that this repeal will “return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” who felt strapped by the extended reach of the federal government over these waterways. The National Association of Counties (NACo), National League of Cities (NLC), and U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) also cited concerns over the 2015 rule, indicating that the broad definition of WOTUS may even have an impact on locally maintained properties, such as roads, roadside ditches, bridges, and stormwater systems. They stressed the need for the federal government to recognize that local governments play a large role in environmental regulation as well, and should be included in discussions regarding new federal rules and regulations.

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