EPA and Army announced the repeal of the Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule
On Sept. 12, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Army announced the repeal of the 2015 Water of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. The agencies announced Step 1 as the repeal and plan to announce Step 2 as the new rule that defines waters regulated under the Clean Water Act.
According to an EPA news release, agencies will now implement the pre-2015 regulations. The final rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Groups including EPA, Army, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Dallas Builders Assn., announced support for the move at a Dallas Builders Assn. event where the repeal was announced.
“Today, EPA and the Department of the Army finalized a rule to repeal the previous administration’s overreach in the federal regulation of U.S. waters and recodify the longstanding and familiar regulatory text that previously existed,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s Step 1 action fulfills a key promise of President Trump and sets the stage for Step 2 – a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers nationwide.”
However, according to The New York Times, because of the repeal some polluters will no longer need a permit to discharge wastewater into some streams and wetlands. The Obama-era rule limited pollution in approximately 60% of the nation’s bodies of water by extending federal authority to protect both large and small bodies of water that drain into them, reported The New York Times. The repeal now limits protections on some smaller bodies of water and ephemeral streams. While the new rule is not yet released, it may limit protections of streams that run only during rainfalls and wetlands that are not connected to major bodies of water.
Many environmental groups are disputing the repeal and legal experts predict lawsuits across the county in response, reported The New York Times.
“Much of the nation’s drinking water sources, already threatened by pollution from industry and agribusiness, will now be left unprotected as a result of this action,” said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources for The Environmental Working Group.