Farmers across the nation may have breathed a collective sigh of relief on June 27 as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent to the Federal Register a proposal to rescind its controversial rule defining “waters of the United States” and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015.
The Clean Water Act says that the EPA can regulate “navigable waters,” meaning waters that truly affect interstate commerce.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Vincent “Zippy” Duvall said in a statement, “Farmers and ranchers across this country are cheering EPA's proposal to ditch its flawed Waters of the U.S. rule. We know the importance of clean water, and farmers and ranchers work hard to protect our natural resources every day.
“But this rule was never really about clean water. It was a federal land grab designed to put a straightjacket on farming and private businesses across this nation. That's why our federal courts blocked it from going into effect for the past two years. Today's announcement shows EPA Administrator Pruitt recognizes the WOTUS rule for what it is — an illegal and dangerous mistake that needs to be corrected.”
Withdrawal of the WOTUS rule will not harm water quality. It was never implemented because it was stayed by both a federal district court and a federal court of appeals.
The rule was challenged in multiple courts by all sides, including environment groups, state and local governments, farmers, landowners, developers, businesses and recreations groups.
Challengers noted numerous substantive and procedural defects in the rule, including that the rule exceeds EPA's statutory authority, imposes burdensome regulatory uncertainty, was promulgated in violation of mandatory procedural requirements designed to ensure a well-informed result, and is otherwise unlawful.
The rule imposed enormous regulatory road blocks and costs for simply moving dirt in low spots on the landscape. Its definition of “tributary” was so broad that it even included landscape features invisible to the human eye.
The proposal withdrawal comes with a 30-day comment period.
A proposed replacement rule could be issued by the fourth quarter of this year, or the first quarter of 2018, at the latest.
This is a vital step in the right direction for all Delawareans, protecting our land, water and property rights.