Yesterday’s release of the new definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) clarifies what is and what is not a WOTUS and ends decades of litigation, confusion and overreach. Many believe it provides clarity, predictability and consistency.
“The process of reversing this egregious overreach of federal regulatory authority has taken over six years,” said Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse. “A farmer or rancher shouldn’t have to hire an attorney just to do a regular day’s work of growing food and fiber. The 2015 rule expanded the government’s reach of land use controls well beyond what was intended by the Clean Water Act. Radical proponents of the 2015 rule were looking for a stranglehold over private property and all those who produce food for others. The new rule will protect the nation’s water supplies and environment while allowing farmers and ranchers to get their job done. This is a win-win for consumers and communities!”
In March 2014, the Obama administration released a regulation that would assert Clean Water Act jurisdiction over nearly all areas with even the slightest of connections to water resources, including man-made conveyances. Specifically, the Obama WOTUS rule attempted to expand agency control over easily 60% of the country’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands that were previously non-jurisdictional.
From the beginning various groups and many in the U.S. Congress stood opposed to the Obama Rule. In fact, American Farm Bureau, along with the support of the state Farm Bureaus, launched a national campaign called #DitchTheRule, garnering enormous attention. In the last Congress, more than 170 bipartisan members cosponsored legislation calling for WOTUS to be repealed and another 120 bipartisan signed a letter urging repeal.
"The previous WOTUS Rule overreached to give the federal government the authority to regulate every ditch, stream, and creek in the backyards of farmers, ranchers, builders, and small business owners,” said U.S. Senator Martha McSally from Arizona. “As a result, bureaucratic red tape suffocated our country's engines of jobs. Since my first day in Congress, I’ve been fighting to roll back this burdensome rule and I applaud the Trump Administration for allowing common sense to prevail by returning the onus of water and land rights where it belongs: the states.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “The Navigable Waters Protection Rule ends decades of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. For the first time, EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers are recognizing the difference between federally protected wetlands and state-protected wetlands. It adheres to the statutory limits of the agencies’ authority. It also ensures that America’s water protections – among the best in the world – remain strong, while giving our states and tribes the certainty to manage their waters in ways that best protect their natural resources and local economies.”
After EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the improved definition for "waters of the United States" with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule yesterday, several members of the Senate and Congressional Western Caucus released statements including one from Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "Under the previous administration, the WOTUS Rule was one of the most egregious examples of federal overreach I’ve seen in my lifetime. The rule gave unprecedented power to bureaucrats in D.C. at the expense of farmers, ranchers, small business owners and all Americans. Thankfully, President Trump has kept another promise by fully repealing this rule and replacing it with a significantly better proposal. Today’s announcement will provide regulatory certainty, eliminate federal overreach and balance federal protection of our Nation’s waters while empowering state autonomy over their resources. I want to thank President Donald Trump and Administrator Andrew Wheeler for taking decisive action that will better the lives of millions of Americans across the country."
Additionally, U.S. Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05) added his thoughts to the redefined rule. "I applaud President Trump and his administration for delivering on another promise to the American people. Our nation depends on the hard work of farmers and ranchers who shouldn’t have to deal with unnecessary bureaucratic nonsense that encompassed the Obama-era WOTUS rule definition. This new WOTUS rule will ensure that our communities abide by sound environmental policies and will keep Washington’s heavy hand away from our precious western lands."
This long and complicated history of the previous rule left Americans, including farmers, confused and uncertain about where federal jurisdiction ends and where state authorities begin, causing many landowners to hire teams of attorneys to tell them how to use their own land. This is a big win for American farmers and ranchers.
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