The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Tuesday, to the delight of rural America, that the Trump administration is moving to rescind the Obama era’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulatory rule.
WOTUS gave the federal government effective authority over water use on 247 million acres of American farmland.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, together with Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Douglas Lamont, signed a proposed regulatory rescission of WOTUS. As soon as the proposed rule change can be published in the Federal Register, under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0203, the public will have a 30-day comment period to “review and revise” the definition of “waters of the United States.”
The EPA took to Twitter at #WOTUS to call its action a significant step to return power to states and provide regulatory certainty to the nation’s farmers and businesses. The EPA added that its decision is consistent with the Executive Order signed by President Trump on February 28, aimed at “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.”
The Obama administration’s WOTUS regulatory expansion cleverly redefined the term “navigable waters” to include “intermittent streams.” Environmental activists hailed the WOTUS’s expansion of federal jurisdiction over land and water use as an essential common-sense-rule to protect water for wildlife and drinking water supplies for 117 million Americans.
But the American Farm Bureau Foundation warned that a plain-reading of WOTUS meant that federal regulatory control could be asserted over any land surface that had ever experienced rain flow, had been flooded, or had irrigation ditches. Farmers argued that the federal regulatory redefinition could usurp state control of water use for America’s entire 247,417,282 acres used in row-crop cultivation.