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.”
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