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EPA Ends 2015 WOTUS Rule      09/12 14:21

   After Years of Legal Battles, Farm Groups Declare Victory Over Obama-Era 
Regulation

   Farm groups on Thursday praised the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers for 
announcing they would eliminate the 2015 Clean Water Act rule drafted by the 
Obama administration that had greatly expanded EPA and the Army Corps of 
Engineers regulatory oversight of streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands.

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

   OMAHA (DTN) -- Farm groups declared victory Thursday after the Trump 
administration formally ended the 2015 waters of the U.S. rule. 

   EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, 
announced Thursday the agencies would eliminate the controversial 2015 Clean 
Water Act rule drafted by the Obama administration. The 2015 rule greatly 
expanded EPA and Army Corps of Engineers regulatory oversight of streams, 
lakes, ponds and wetlands. 

   "Today, EPA and the Department of the Army finalized a rule to repeal the 
previous administration's overreach in the federal regulation of U.S. waters 
and recodify the longstanding and familiar regulatory text that previously 
existed," Wheeler said at an event hosted by the National Association of 
Manufacturers. "Today's Step 1 action fulfills a key promise of President Trump 
and sets the stage for Step 2 -- a new WOTUS definition that will provide 
greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and 
developers nationwide."

   The move follows through on a campaign promise by President Donald Trump, 
who criticized the 2015 waters of the U.S. rule, known as WOTUS. Wheeler cited 
one of President Trump's earliest executive orders to peel back regulations on 
business as one of the key drivers for eliminating the rule. 

   Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the 
2015 rule was unreasonable and unworkable for farmers and created liabilities 
for them. 

   "No regulation is perfect, and no rule can accommodate every concern, but 
the 2015 rule was especially egregious," Duvall said. "We are relieved to put 
it behind us. We are now working to ensure a fair and reasonable substitute 
that protects our water and our ability to work and care for the land. Farm 
Bureau's multi-year effort to raise awareness of overreaching provisions was 
powered by thousands of our members who joined with an array of allies to 
achieve this victory for clear rules to ensure clean water."

   Jennifer Houston, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, 
said the waters of the U.S. rule "was an illegal effort by the federal 
government to assert control over both land and water, significantly impacting 
our ability to implement vital conservation practices." 

   Houston added, "Cattle producers will sleep a little easier tonight knowing 
that the nightmare is over. Thanks to President Trump and Administrator Wheeler 
for their commitment to farmers and ranchers, and restoring the rule of law. 
NCBA looks forward to the finalization of a practical Waters of the United 
States definition that will protect our water resource while allowing cattle 
producers to do their jobs effectively."

   The National Pork Producers Council released a similar message. "We're 
pleased the EPA is moving toward a common sense WOTUS rule that works with -- 
not against -- farmers to protect our nation's waterways," said NPPC President 
David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C. "The previous WOTUS rule 
was a dramatic government overreach and an unprecedented expansion of federal 
authority over private lands. Today's action will remove the threat that the 
2015 WOTUS rule posed for our ability to efficiently grow the amount of food 
needed by people around the globe, while providing regulatory certainty to our 
farmers and businesses. We look forward to working with this administration to 
finally implement a new WOTUS rule."

   Until Thursday, various lawsuits and court rulings meant 22 states were 
operating under the 2015 rule while 28 states were under injunctions or court 
stays that placed them under the old Clean Water Act rules. 

   Don Parrish, director of regulatory affairs for the American Farm Bureau 
Federation, said the 2015 rule wrote the term "navigable" out of the Clean 
Water Act, leading to significantly broader uncertainty for farmers. 

   "For farmers, it removes some uncertainty that rule put into place and it 
provides some consistency because right now, before they repeal, there's one 
set of rules being implemented in one set of states and a different set of 
rules being implemented in other states," Parrish said. "We hope this will 
bring some consistency back to the process." 

   Eliminating the 2015 rule emphasizes the need for the Trump administration 
to finish its new rule, which should be finalized before the end of the year, 
Parrish said. "That clarity would both protect clean water [and] provide some 
understanding of where federal jurisdiction stops and where federal 
jurisdiction takes over," he said. 

   Under EPA's rule proposed last December, there would still be six categories 
of federal jurisdiction that include traditional navigable waters, tributaries, 
certain ditches that are navigable or affected by tide, lakes and ponds and 
wetlands that are connected to waters of the U.S. 

   The National Wildlife Federation condemned the Trump administration's move, 
stating it would peel back protections for waterways that provide drinking 
water to 117 million Americans, as well as protecting streams important to fish 
species. 

   "No one wants to fish a lake covered in toxic algae, duck hunt in a 
bulldozed wetland, or pitch a tent next to a creek filled with feces," said 
Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. 
"Unfortunately, this Administration is working on multiple fronts to rewrite 
the rules that protect our waters, hoping no one will notice. The collective 
impact of these changes would be devastating for public health and wildlife 
across the country -- and we will continue to fight to protect America's 
waterways every step of the way."

   Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

   Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN 


(CZ/ES)

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