By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online
Few rules governing the nation’s water quality have been politicized to the extent of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, seen by one side as necessary for protecting the environment and by another as government overreach that hurts the economy.
In the latest development regarding the rule’s survival, a report surfaced that the U.S. EPA planned to trigger a 21-day public comment period around the regulation and gain some time to continue stakeholder meetings as it prepares a possible rewrite.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to prevent the controversial 2015 … rule from taking effect while the agency undertakes a complete rewrite, proposing to extend the effective date of the rule by two years,” KTIC reported. “The rule, developed by former President Barack Obama’s administration, remains held up in 13 courts nationwide and faces a date in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
WOTUS was originally part of the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule, that sought to clarify how water resources should be managed under the Clean Water Act. WOTUS was supposed to clarify which source waters fell under federal jurisdiction, but a nationwide stay has kept it from being implemented.
The Trump administration has seemed dedicated to eliminating the rule or rewriting it entirely in the name of promoting the economy and this latest development seems in line with that goal.
“Today’s proposal shows our commitment to our state and tribal partners and to providing regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, per DTN. “This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the waters of the United States.”
Pruitt has been meeting with agricultural interest groups, government representatives, and others, while the EPA has reached out to state governors for input on how best to rewrite the rule, per the report.
“The EPA announced it would attempt to better define ‘navigable waters’ in what is expected to be a two-part effort,” KTIC reported. “The current proposal would revert the rule to pre-2015, before the EPA finalized the WOTUS rule.”
Image credit: "Environmental Protection Agency building," USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency, 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/