Photo Credit: Sixlocal via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Army, and Army Corps of Engineers moved yesterday to rescind the Waters of the U.S. rule established in 2015. They are proposing a rule to repeal the Clean Water Rule and re-codify the regulatory text that existed before 2015 defining “waters of the United States” or WOTUS.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “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 re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

This proposed rule follows President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule” issued on February 28, 2017. The executive order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation’s navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution.

The proposed rule would recodify the regulatory text that was in place before the 2015 Clean Water Rule, and that is currently in place as a result of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s stay of the 2015 rule. So action will not change current practice on how the definition applies.

Following the executive order, the agencies have also begun deliberations and outreach on the second step rulemaking involving a re-evaluation and revision of the definition of “waters of the United States.”

“The Army, together with the Corps of Engineers, is committed to working closely with and supporting the EPA on these rulemakings.  As we go through the rulemaking process, we will continue to make the implementation of the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program as transparent as possible for the regulated public, ” Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, said.

Several Iowa Republican elected officials responded to the news.

“I am pleased that the Trump administration is taking another important step toward eliminating this burdensome WOTUS rule,” U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). “In Iowa, 97 percent of the land is subject to extensive overregulation by the EPA and unnecessarily hamstrings our farmers, businesses, and manufacturers. All across Iowa, folks are calling for this rule to be scrapped, which is why I have led efforts in the Senate to do just that.

“This is good news for Iowa and rural communities across the country as we move closer to finally eliminating this overreaching rule,” she added.

“Waters of the United States was a significant and severe case of government overreach by the Obama administration. I want to thank (Administrator) Pruitt for recognizing that WOTUS forced onerous and unnecessary burdens on Iowa’s farmers and businesses. I also want to express my appreciation to the Trump administration for its continuing commitment to work with states, not against them,” Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said.

“This is great news for accountability in government.  This was a bad regulation drafted under a bad process.  The EPA overreached its authority and ignored and manipulated legitimate concerns raised by the public,” U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stated.  “Farmers, landowners, and builders in Iowa struggled to make sense of the regulation.  Having the federal EPA and the Corps of Engineers require permits for routine land use decisions is a waste of resources that are better used enforcing existing regulations against discharging pollutants into the nation’s waterways.   Agencies ought to enforce the laws as Congress intended, not stretch beyond their authority to inflict unnecessary expense and red tape on law-abiding farmers and employers.”

Congressman David Young (R-Iowa) applauded the news.

“The Waters Of The U.S. (WOTUS) rule is a massive land transfer allowing big-government bureaucrats to take control over Iowans’ property. I was proud to join with the Iowa Congressional Delegation in requesting President Trump to overturn this bad policy, and I applaud the Trump Administration for ending this confusing rule hurting Iowa job creators, workers, communities, and private landowners,” he said.

Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) said “good riddance” to the rule.

“The EPA’s announcement that it is withdrawing President Obama’s ‘WOTUS Rule’ is a win for farmers, ranchers, and private landowners throughout the country,” King said. “I thank EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for his leadership on this issue. After two years, President Obama’s water grab has finally been flushed. Had it been left in place, the EPA could have claimed the authority to regulate 97% of Iowa with dire economic consequences for both the state and the nation. Good riddance to this misguided Obama-era economic assault on rural America.”

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