President Donald Trump’s administration has announced plans to scrap regulation, that protects waterways that provide one-third of the nation’s drinking water. Critics said the regulation was a federal overreach and a job-killer.
On Tuesday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers formally proposed to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule or “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), a controversial regulation that expanded federal jurisdiction over small waterways, like streams and wetlands.
In the statement, the EPA, Department of the Army and US Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to recodify the protections of the Clean Water Act before it was changed in 2015. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that the action would “return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” according to a statement from the agency.
Pruitt cited an executive order issued by Trump in February that directed the EPA and Corps of Engineers to review the Clean Water Rule and ensure it was “promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of the Congress and the States under the Constitution.”
While signing the executive order, Trump called WOTUS “one of the worst examples of federal regulation” and a “massive power grab.” He said that the regulation should be rolled back and only apply to navigable waters that “truly affect interstate commerce.”
Passed under former President Barack Obama, the Clean Water Rule of 2105 updated the Clean Water Act of 1972 by redefining which waterways the federal government has the power to regulate.
Under WOTUS, the federal government clarified their jurisdiction over waterways that “show physical features of flowing water” as well as “waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries because science shows that they impact downstream waters”
The EPA under Obama said the new regulations would help protect the drinking water for about one in three Americans, or 117 million people.
However, the Sixth Circuit stayed enforcement of the regulation, ruling that more time was needed for “a more deliberate determination whether this exercise of executive power, enabled by Congress and explicated by the Supreme Court, is proper under the dictates of federal law.”
After the EPA announced they were rolling back the regulation on Tuesday, John Rumpler, senior attorney at Environment America released a statement, calling on Pruitt to “reconsider this reckless repeal and stand up for our drinking water, not for polluters.”
“Repealing the Clean Water Rule turns the mission of the EPA on its head,” Rumpler said in a statement. “Instead of safeguarding our drinking water, Scott Pruitt is proposing to stop protecting drinking water sources for 1 in 3 Americans. It defies common sense, sound science and the will of the American people.”
Critics of WOTUS have said that the regulation was an overreach that imposed strict regulations on American farmers and businesses.
Exciting news as @POTUS will repeal WOTUS. Every farmer I talk to hates it, for good reason as it would be detrimental to rural communities.
— Rep. Ralph Abraham (@RepAbraham) June 27, 2017
Many Republican lawmakers applauded Pruitt’s decision, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) who released a statement on Tuesday, calling WOTUS “a disaster for the West and rural communities across the country, giving Washington near-total control over water resources.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation also said that “farmers and ranchers across this country are cheering EPA’s proposal” to repeal WOTUS.
“This rule was never really about clean water,” Zippy Duvall, the bureau’s president said in a statement. “It was a federal land grab designed to put a straightjacket 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.”