THE GREELEY TRIBUNE: Opinion: Doug Benevento: EPA seeks clarity on Clean Water Act for farmers, landowners and states

Our new proposal would make it easier to understand where the Clean Water Act applies — and where it does not. It would facilitate critical infrastructure projects, reduce barriers to business development, and support economic growth.

In Colorado, a headwater state and a semi-arid region, water resources are unique compared to other parts of the country. I encourage landowners, businesses, community members and organizations to consider how this definition would affect the water on your properties and in your watersheds.

Under the proposal, traditional navigable waters, tributaries, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments of jurisdictional waters, wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters, and certain ditches, such as those used for navigation or those affected by the tide, would be federally regulated. More importantly, many ditches, including most roadside or farm ditches, would be excluded from federal regulation. Ephemeral streams — those that only flow after it rains — would also not qualify as waters of the United States.

Continue reading at The Greeley Tribune…

COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE: Opinion: EPA seeks clarity on Clean Water Act for farmers, landowners and states

Right now, because of litigation, the 2015 definition is in effect in 22 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories, while the previous regulations, issued in the 1980s, are in effect in the remaining 28 states. This unpredictable, regulatory patchwork will not continue under the Trump Administration.

Going forward, the new definition for “waters of the United States” would establish national consistency and would rebalance the relationship between the federal government and states. States already have regulations for waters within their borders, regardless of whether they are federally regulated as “waters of the United States.” That means that the combination of the agencies’ proposal and state regulations would continue to provide coverage for the nation’s water resources as intended by Congress when it passed the Clean Water Act over 45 years ago.

Since the beginning of this administration, EPA and the Army have been committed to an open and transparent process for reviewing the definition of “waters of the United States” and the scope of federal authority under the Clean Water Act. The agencies sought feedback from a broad audience of stakeholders and have developed a proposed rule that reflects the diverse input that was submitted. The agencies’ proposal is now open for public review for 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register.

Continue reading at Columbia Daily Tribune…

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Opinion: Rep. Greg Walden: Abolition of the ‘WOTUS’ rule means one less burden on rural America

Thankfully, President Trump heard the concerns of America’s agriculture community and acted to rein in what he called “one of the worst examples of federal regulation.” Shortly after taking office, Trump ordered his administration to review and replace the previous definition of the “waters of the United States.” Crafted by the feedback of people on the ground, the Trump administration rolled out an encouraging new WOTUS proposal this week.

Importantly, the new proposal incorporates the input of the farmers, ranchers, and property owners who were most burdened under the previous ruling. Among the key changes: EPA’s jurisdiction will only cover wetlands that are physically and meaningfully connected to navigable waterways.

The new definition cuts most irrigation ditches out of unnecessary federal regulation. Similarly creative, collaborative efforts to maximize conservation of our water resources through groundwater recharge, or wastewater recycling will not face burdensome federal red tape. And the EPA will no longer pick and choose which individual waters they have jurisdiction over, a practice Oregonians in my district have had to put up with for far too long.

Continue reading at Washington Examiner…

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: EDITORIAL: There goes another one: Trump continues regulatory rollbacks

On Tuesday, Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency announced it would roll back Obama-era rules that, under cover of the 1972 Clean Water Act, empowered federal bureaucrats to regulate virtually every puddle, pond and drainage ditch under the guise of protecting wetlands. The result was a morass of red tape that created a nightmare for farmers, developers and other property owners.

Consider John Duarte, a Northern California farmer who faced millions in fines after bureaucrats accused him of damaging wetland features on his property simply for tilling his own land. His farm wasn’t anywhere near a “navigable waterway” as typically understood. But Mr. Duarte — who settled the allegation in 2017 — became a target after the Obama administration “attempted a massive land grab by redefining tens of millions of acres as ‘waters of the U.S.’ subject to federal jurisdiction,” The Wall Street Journal noted Tuesday.

The heavy-handed expansion of the regulatory state was a hallmark of Barack Obama’s presidency — and the nation, under his presidency, had the economy to show for it.
Continue reading at Las Vegas Review-Journal…

Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

THE HILL: Opinion: EPA restores common sense to overaggressive water regulations

The Trump EPA is thankfully proposing to restore common sense to EPA regulatory authority. The agency proposes to walk back the Obama administration’s asserted authority to regulate streambeds and land depressions that are usually dry. EPA will no longer regulate wetlands unless they are “physically and meaningfully connected” to waters under EPA jurisdiction. EPA will also eliminate subjective criteria for determining whether land or water features qualify under navigable waters jurisdiction, granting individuals more certainty about how they can use their property. These corrections are long overdue, and represent another example of President Trump keeping campaign promises to reduce environmental and regulatory overreach.

Environmental activists are sounding an alarm about potential environmental harms, but their arguments are weak. EPA will still regulate all navigable waters, as well as meaningful permanent and intermittent tributaries to navigable waters. Also, very importantly, all 50 states have their own environmental laws and regulations, allowing regulation above and beyond navigable waters as defined by EPA. For normally dry streambeds, isolated depressions that only occasionally hold water, and other land features that the Obama administration sought to regulate, regulations will once again come from state and local governments that are more responsive and accountable to the people and communities being regulated.

EPA’s proposed rule will continue to provide strong environmental protection for the waterways Congress authorized EPA to regulate. At the same time, the proposed rule will roll back executive branch overreach and protect the rights of homeowners and landowners.

Continue reading at The Hill…

MCCOOK GAZETTE: Editorial: Proposed WOTUS rollback welcome change for Nebraska

Critics are decrying the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to change the definition of the “Waters of the United States” as leaving “vast amounts of wetlands and thousands of miles of U.S. waterways” without federal protection.

What’s not often mentioned is that the definition has only been in effect for three years and if tightly enforced, could cripple states like Nebraska, where a majority of the population lives in areas where many activities could require permission from Washington.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 originally protected “navigable” waters from pollution, but over the years, despite the best efforts of Congress and administrations, the Army Corps of Engineers and courts interpreted the act different in different regions of the country.

Continue reading at McCook Gazette…

UTILITY DIVE: Utilities cheer as EPA moves to roll back Obama-era water rules

EPA’s rollback of clean water protections would ease regulations on the utility sector, which has said the current rules burden them by requiring federal permits for energy projects near protected waters.

The rule, finalized in 2015, expanded the definition of federally protected waters to include ephemeral streams and more wetlands, sparking court challenges from utilities and agriculture interests.

The Supreme Court declined to put that case on hold last year — as it had done with Obama climate regulations — allowing the WOTUS rule to stay in place for a time.

On Tuesday, EPA officially sought to undo it, with Administrator Andrew Wheeler signing the new proposed rule in a ceremony at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

“For the first time, we are clearly defining the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways,” Wheeler said in a statement. “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.”

Continue reading at Utility Dive…
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

CAPITAL PRESS: Farmers, ranchers welcome WOTUS rollback

Agricultural organizations are applauding the Trump administration’s proposal to rein in what they contend was federal overreach by the Obama administration to define waters regulated under the Clean Water Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army on Tuesday announced they are proposing a clear, understandable and implementable definition of “waters of the United States” that clarifies which waterways are federally protected.

The rule also details which waters do not fall under federal jurisdiction — such as ephemeral streams, groundwater, most roadside or farm ditches and previously converted cropland.

Obama’s 2015 WOTUS rule has been one of the most contentious issues in farm country, resulting in numerous lawsuits against the federal government brought by states and other entities.

The new proposal clearly defines the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways, Andrew Wheeler EPA acting administrator, said.

Continue reading at Capital Press…

THE FRESNO BEE: Opinion: EPA seeks clarity on Clean Water Act for farmers, landowners and states

Burdensome and excessive federal regulations often delay or prohibit American businesses from investing in infrastructure or land development projects that will create jobs, grow crops and improve how we manage our natural resources. Upon taking office, President Trump initiated a process to review and replace these regulatory barriers, which included the Obama administration’s 2015 “waters of the United States” definition.

Under the 2015 definition, farmers, landowners, municipalities and businesses are spending too much time and money trying to determine whether waters on their land are “waters of the United States” and subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act. In some cases, they pay consultants or lawyers tens of thousands of dollars, only to discover that they need federal permits that cover isolated ponds, channels that only flow after it rains, and wetlands far removed from the navigable waters the Clean Water Act was specifically designed to regulate.

Continue reading at The Fresno Bee…

Photo Credit: Mark Crosse/Fresno Bee

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Editorial: Trump’s Regulatory Dredging

Invoking Justice Kennedy’s muddled opinion, the Obama EPA claimed all land within a 100-year floodplain and 1,500 feet of the high-water mark or 4,000 feet of waters already under its jurisdiction—namely, rivers, tributaries and adjacent wetlands. Ditto “ephemeral” ponds, ditches and creeks that occasionally fill with storm runoff. The Hudson River is less murky than the Obama rule.

Courts gave a reprieve for homebuilders, farmers and other businesses by staying the rule in 28 states that sued. The EPA is now proposing a bright-line test that excludes from federal regulation land that contains water only after rainfall such as farm and roadside ditches. Groundwater recharge and wastewater recycling basins would also be exempt. Tributaries would be covered only if they connect to navigable waters. Lakes and ponds could be regulated only insofar as they are navigable, as in the Clean Water Act. Imagine: Adhering to the statute.

While states could continue to regulate waters within their borders, businesses would have an easier time navigating the federal regulatory landscape. If Democratic states sue the EPA, as is their wont, the Supreme Court might welcome the opportunity to clarify the limits on regulatory power.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal…