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EPA, Corps to roll back Obama-era Waters of the United States rule

Staff report

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are rolling back a Clean Water Rule that was opposed by industry and embraced by environmental groups.

The two agencies announced Tuesday, June 27, that they are proposing to rescind the 2015 Obama-era rule that expanded the definition of “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS. They said the change would restore language that existed in the rule before the change of 2015.

That change had never been enforced, as it has been tied up in court.

“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 in announcing the change.

Tuesday’s announcement complies with an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in February. Also in accordance with the executive order, the EPA and the Corps have begun deliberations on the second step of rule-making involving a re-evaluation and revision of the definition of “waters of the United States.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was quick to praise the agencies’ action. Morrisey was one of 22 state attorneys general to file action to overturn the 2015 rule.

Referring to the 2015 rule, he said, “The WOTUS rule asserts sweeping federal authority over usually dry channels, roadside ditches, and isolated streams. The rule also asserts federal authority over land covered by water only once every one hundred years.

“The rule’s broad assertion of authority unlawfully impinges on the States’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources. The WOTUS rule is unlawful under the Clean Water Act, U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and the U.S. Constitution.”

The change was criticized by environmental groups.

“This foolish rollback of clean water standards rejects years of work building stakeholder input and scientific data support, and it imperils the progress for safe clean drinking water in the Midwest,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

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