The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday announced the repeal of a controversial Obama-era rule on regulating water under the Clean Water Act.
The rule, called “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, defines what can be considered a body of water under federal jurisdiction. The rule’s critics and the Trump administration have said the rule amounted to government overreach because it allowed for expansive interpretation in what the federal agency could regulate, leading to scores of lawsuits.
“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,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.
The repeal was announced at an event at the Dallas Builders Association, along with the Department of the Army.
Wheeler added that the EPA’s new definition “will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers nationwide.”
The repeal means the EPA will restore regulations that existed prior to the 2015 change directed by the Obama administration.
President Donald Trump in February 2017 signed an executive order authorizing that the rule be reviewed.
The Congressional Western Caucus on Thursday released a statement criticizing the 2015 rule.
"The Obama-era WOTUS Rule was an abysmal failure and represented one of the most egregious examples of federal overreach in my lifetime,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, the caucus’ chairman. “President Obama’s land and water grab gave unprecedented power to bureaucrats of the D.C. Swamp at the expense of farmers, ranchers, small business owners and the American people.”
Environmental and conservation groups roundly opposed the rule change Thursday, saying the repeal means a step back for conservation efforts.
“The EPA is tossing out 50 years of peer-reviewed science and in doing so threatens to undermine the integrity of the Nation’s waters that support fish and wildlife,” said Doug Austen, executive director of the American Fisheries Society. “Allowing unchecked pollution and destruction in the waters and wetlands in the upper reaches of a watershed imperils the sustainability of fish stocks in both upstream and downstream waters and places valuable recreational fisheries and endangered species at risk.”
The National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited, are among the groups that oppose the rule change.
Business groups in Colorado previously spoke out in favor of the proposed rule change.