News Feature | February 5, 2018

Trump Admin Suspends WOTUS

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

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The U.S. EPA has moved swiftly to suspend an Obama-era water regulation in the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision that boosted the odds the court-contested rule would become enforceable.

On January 31, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took a major step toward blocking the rule, “filing the legal documents required to suspend the Obama rule for two years. The rule was set to be implemented in the coming weeks, following a Supreme Court decision last week that gave jurisdiction of the matter to district courts,” The New York Times reported.

The EPA will now write a Trump administration version for the rule, which is expected to appease the concerns of the agricultural industry, according to the report.

“Today, U.S. EPA is taking action to reduce confusion and provide certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers,” Pruitt said, per The Times. “The 2015 rule developed by the Obama administration will not be applicable for the next two years, while we work through the process of providing long-term regulatory certainty across all 50 states about what waters are subject to federal regulation.”

The Obama administration had passed the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule through the U.S. EPA as a way to amend Clean Water Act regulations. Democrats said WOTUS would clarify jurisdictional issues under the law and make it more certain which waterways the federal government could regulate. Opponents, including the agriculture industry and the GOP, have claimed that the rules expand the U.S. EPA’s authority to an inappropriate extent.

“President Donald Trump issued an executive order nearly a year ago ordering a review of the WOTUS rule. By moving the effective date to 2020, the Trump administration buys itself more time to issue a replacement,” The Denver Post reported.

Greenwire called the Trump administration’s recent suspension of the rule an “unconventional tactic.”

The administration did not “address case law saying effective dates of regulations cannot be changed after they take effect, [but] they explain why the administration has the authority to add an applicability date,” Greenwire reported.

Trump made a promise to undo WOTUS while he was on the campaign trail.

Image credit: "white house," matt wade © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/