When President Donald Trump took office, he began a process to remove and replace what he deemed to be regulatory burdens put in place by the Obama Administration. One of those rules he endeavored to change was Obama Administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States rule and on Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army presented a new proposal to do just that.
Under the proposal, federally regulated areas include traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those waters, some ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments of jurisdictional waters, and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters.
The proposal also details non-waters of the U.S., such as areas that only contain water during or in response to rainfall; many ditches, including most roadside or farm ditches; prior converted cropland; stormwater control features; and waste treatment systems.
“Our proposal would replace the Obama EPA’s 2015 definition with one that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “For the first time, we are clearly defining the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways. Our simpler and clearer definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”
The agencies’ proposal is the second step in a two-step process to review and revise the definition of “waters of the United States” consistent with President Trump’s February 2017 Executive Order entitled “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” The Executive Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the nation’s navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the states under the Constitution.
Here’s what Alabama politicians and groups are saying about the proposed rule:
Attorney General Steve Marshall:
I applaud the Environmental Protection Agency for the release of a commonsense approach to the protection of America’s waterways. The new EPA Waters of the United States definition clearly delineates whether a waterway is covered by the federal government, thus simplifying the process for landowners in seeking permits for use of their property. This new definition will be especially welcome to our farmers, timberland owners and others who use land for commercial purposes and who were unfairly targeted under the old Obama administration Waters of the United States rule.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell:
The proposed rule is good news for Alabama farmers and restores common sense to Clean Water Act enforcement. For several years, farmers, businesses and homeowners have lived under the threat of government intrusion and costly penalties due to overaggressive actions of the Obama-era EPA. We appreciate the Trump administration, current EPA administration, Alabama’s congressional delegation and our state attorneys general for standing by farmers and landowners as we’ve fought back against the WOTUS rule.
Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan:
This user-friendly amendment will restore landowners rights. The prior rule greatly expanded Washington’s control over local land use. These necessary changes will assist landowners in understanding whether a project needs federal permits, thus saving our producers both time and money.
Alabama Rivers Alliance:
BREAKING: The Trump Administration just dropped a rule aiming to gut clean water protections which have been in place for generations.
Alabama 1st District U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne:
Farmers who depend on the land and fresh water to do their jobs deserve policies that protect our environment without placing burdensome and confusing requirements on them. I applaud the Trump Administration for rolling out this new rule. As Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said: this rule “restores common sense to Clean Water Act enforcement.
*This article will be updated as more reactions come in.