Pruitt: EPA WOTUS Review ‘Restoring States’ Important Role’ In Regulating Water
Earlier this week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to restoring the role of states in the regulation of water.
An executive order issued by President Trump on Feb. 28 directs the EPA Administrator and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to review, and rescind or revise, the Clean Water Rule, also known as the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The rule, drafted and implemented by the Obama administration in 2015, expanded the federal government’s jurisdiction over water. On Monday, the EPA launched a new website to provide more information about the agency’s WOTUS review process.
“EPA is restoring states’ important role in the regulation of water by reviewing WOTUS,” Pruitt said in a May 15 statement announcing the new website. “The president has directed us to review this regulation to address the concerns from farmers and local communities that it creates unnecessary burdens and inhibits economic growth.”
At the signing of the executive order, Pruitt said, “We’re going to go back to the states and say, ‘We want you to be our partners, not our adversaries.’”
When the rule was proposed, officials across the West expressed concerns about federal encroachment on state decision-making and authority, with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) calling it “another regulatory power grab of unprecedented magnitude.”
Months after the rule was finalized, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) told a U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources hearing that it would “create a whole different set of problems and federal overreach into what has historically been a state domain.” “The control and management of water has always been a state issue, not a federal one,” he said.
Because the rule expands federal jurisdiction over waters like farm fields and ditches, agricultural groups, farmers and ranchers have long opposed the rule, concerned about limitations on their ability to use their lands.
“This extremely flawed rule would force ranchers and feedlot operators to get permits or risk excessive federal penalties despite being miles away from any navigable water,” the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a statement when the executive order was signed. “Ultimately, this rule should be taken out behind the barn and put out of its misery.”
The National Pork Producers Council also embraced the executive order, calling the rule “a dramatic government overreach and an unprecedented expansion of federal jurisdiction and control over private lands” and “the product of a flawed regulatory process that lacked transparency and no doubt would have been used by trial lawyers and environmental activists to attack farmers.”
“Farmers and ranchers care deeply about clean water, but this rule had significant flaws,” the National Corn Growers Association said. “It was arbitrarily written, legally indefensible, and extremely difficult to implement.”
The three organizations had joined groups representing the agricultural, energy, transportation and manufacturing industries in challenging the rule in court. Two dozen state attorneys general had also filed lawsuits over the issue.