The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army intend to update the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The WOTUS revision comes after declaring the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule as being insufficient in its purpose. Federal officials assert that the Trump-era rule was substantially reducing clean water protections.
“After reviewing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as directed by President Biden, the EPA and Department of the Army have determined that this rule is leading to significant environmental degradation,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a press release. “We are committed to establishing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ based on Supreme Court precedent and drawing from the lessons learned from the current and previous regulations, as well as input from a wide array of stakeholders, so we can better protect our nation’s waters, foster economic growth, and support thriving communities.”
Regan had previously declared that he did not wish to return to the parameters of the 2015 WOTUS rule. The federal agencies have indicated that stakeholder feedback will be incorporated in the crafting of new WOTUS guidelines. As part of the rulemaking progress, the agencies have said they will build on the previous clean water rules to establish a new framework. The purported goal is to protect water resources using the latest scientific information and community input. Ag groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Agricultural Retailers Association have expressed concern as to what the WOTUS revision will mean for farmers and ranchers.
“The American Farm Bureau Federation is extremely disappointed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of its intention to reverse the environmentally conscious Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which finally brought clarity and certainty to clean water efforts,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a news release. “Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, and they support the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”
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