WASHINGTON – Today, President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Army will announce they have finalized a rule to repeal former President Obama’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, thereby providing much-needed certainty for farmers and property owners.
While this repeals the previous administration’s definition of WOTUS, Senator Mike Braun and Senator Joni Ernst have introduced legislation that would put a new definition in statute to provide permanent certainty so that future administrations cannot undo this historic decision from President Trump’s EPA.
“As a member of the Ag community, I know President Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler are keeping their promise to repeal the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that gave unelected bureaucrats the power to regulate lakes, streams, ponds and ditches,” said Senator Mike Braun. “To compliment Trump’s deregulatory agenda, I have offered legislation that puts their work and a new definition into law so that no future administrations can treat our farmers like the previous administration did.”
EPA, Army finalize repeal of controversial ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rules. “Today, EPA and the Department of the Army will finalize a rule to repeal the previous administration’s overreach in the federal regulation of waters and wetlands. This action officially ends an egregious power grab and sets the stage for a new rule that will provide much-needed regulatory certainty for farmers, home builders, and property owners nationwide. … In 2015, the Obama administration put forward a WOTUS definition that expanded Washington’s influence over the landscape, including categorical jurisdiction over ephemeral tributaries and potential jurisdiction over isolated wetlands and ponds three-quarters of a mile from a remote tributary. The definition was so far-reaching that they needed to clarify in regulatory text that puddles were excluded. The 2015 rule meant that more businesses and landowners across the U.S. would need to obtain a federal permit to exercise control over their own property, a process that can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take months or even years to complete.” (EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Des Moines Register, 09/12/19)
A new WOTUS definition will provide certainty for hardworking Americans. “Today’s action is ‘Step 1’ of our response to the president’s executive order. Step 1 repeals the 2015 rule and recodifies the longstanding and familiar regulatory text that existed previously. It also sets the stage for ‘Step 2’ – our new proposed ‘waters of the United States’ definition. … Today’s action fulfills a key promise of the president and lays the groundwork for his ultimate objective – a new WOTUS definition that provides hardworking Americans the regulatory certainty they need to invest in, develop, and build new projects that improve lives and the environment.” (EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Des Moines Register, 09/12/19)
Senator Braun’s the Define WOTUS Act codifies a definition of “Waters of the United States.” “If passed, the bill would reassert Congressional responsibility to define this important term. The definition in the Define WOTUS Act also makes substantial improvements over various administrative attempts to define the term by clearly outlining what is, and is not, a federally regulated waterway.” (Press Release, 07/31/19)
How is the Define WOTUS Act different from the EPA Rule? “Like EPA’s rule, the Define WOTUS Act provides much greater certainty to American farmers, workers, businesses and landowners. It gives landowners clear guidelines by which they can go out on their land and clearly determine what is regulated by the EPA and what is not. Because Congress is not restricted various rulemaking statutes, the Define WOTUS Act provides a clearer definition with more obvious safeguards to protect against a runaway bureaucracy. EPA’s efforts are an outgrowth of Congressional inaction on this issue. Had Congress acted appropriately nearly 40 years ago, then we would not have had these decades of litigation and conflicting rulemakings. We believe that Congress should act here and The Define WOTUS Act is our preferred definition.” (Press Release, 07/31/19)
Why is the Define WOTUS Act necessary now? “It is important for Congress to get on the record on this issue. Further, while the Obama-era rule is stayed in Indiana, I frequently hear from farmers who are still seeing enforcement officers implementing the Obama rule. This is unacceptable, and causing quite a bit of consternation in the farm community. I have been speaking to EPA and Indiana about this, but I also want to introduce legislation to make Congress’s position clear about what is and is not under federal jurisdiction.” (Press Release, 07/31/19)