EPA proposes rule to repeal ‘WOTUS’

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will propose a rule to rescind a controversial Clean Water Act regulation that gave the government broad jurisdiction over land and water.

The proposal — expected to be published in the Federal Register in the coming days — will repeal the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which ostensibly was implemented to clarify EPA’s authority over various waters.

Based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, EPA’s jurisdiction had included “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. But the WOTUS rule broadened that to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters.

“The WOTUS rule was a dramatic government overreach and an unprecedented expansion of federal authority over private lands,” said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill. “It was the product of a flawed regulatory process that lacked transparency and likely would have been used by trial lawyers and environmental activists to attack farmers.”

“We’re extremely grateful to President Trump and EPA Administrator [Scott] Pruitt for recognizing the dire consequences this ill-advised Obama-era regulation would have had on pork producers and all of American agriculture.”

The agricultural community expressed broad opposition to the WOTUS rule, including producing maps showing the extent of the lands affected by the regulation. (EPA’s jurisdiction in Missouri, for example, would have increased to cover 77% of the state under the rule.) There were numerous legal efforts against the rule, filing suit in a U.S. District Court and presenting a brief to a U.S. Court of Appeals. The latter halted implementation of the WOTUS rule shortly after its Aug. 28, 2015, effective date.

Once the proposed repeal rule is published, it will be subject to a public comment period.

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