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…

AGNET WEST: New WOTUS Rule Proposal Brings Optimism

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a new draft of the Waters of the United State rule, known as the WOTUS rule, that seeks to clarify federal authority under the Clean Water Act.  The new proposal seeks to restore more authority to state and local governments and would remove federal jurisdiction over many ditches, and streams that only hold water when it rains.

“This welcome action from the EPA and Army Corps will help bring clarity to Clean Water Act regulations and help farmers know where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. President Trump is making good on his promise to reduce burdensome regulations to free our producers to do what they do best – feed, fuel, and clothe this nation and the world,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Originally issued by the Obama Administration back in 2015, the WOTUS rule has created significant confusion as to what is and is not considered a water body falling under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The proposed update looks to establish national consistency compartmentalizing different water bodies such as navigable waterways and tributaries, ditches, lakes and ponds, impoundments and adjacent wetlands.

“Clear rules and clean water – that’s what the EPA should stand for, and today’s announcement marks a hopeful new chapter for farm country…I applaud this administration for listening to concerns raised by farmers and ranchers and their representatives in Congress. I am eager to see a rule that restores integrity to the regulatory process and supports American agriculture as it seeks to preserve our natural resources,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway.

Continue reading at AgNet West…

Photo Credit: Staff

ST. JOSEPH NEWS-PRESS: Opinion: EPA made right call on ‘waters’ rollback

In 2015, the Environment Protection Agency finalized a rule that allowed federal bureaucrats to come into our backyards and onto our farms to regulate any brook, stream or pond, no matter the size or even if it had water in it.

Known as “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, the Obama administration rewrote standing law to extend its authority onto farms and private property. One of the biggest things WOTUS did was remove the word “navigable” so the federal Clean Water Act could be applied to far more private property. The Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule represented everything people distrust and resent about the federal government.

From the day WOTUS was proposed, the outcry from farmers and landowners in North Missouri and across the country was loud and fierce. How could the Clean Water Act be extended to all bodies of water, regardless of where they were, what they were used for or if they even had water in them?

As a sixth-generation farmer, I found this to be a blatant abuse of our private property rights.

Continue reading at St. Joseph News-Press…

Photo Credit: Staff

THE HILL: Opinion: EPA proposal will provide a balanced way to protect rivers and other major bodies of water

Every citizen of this country wants crystal-clean water, but virtually no one wants the federal government to monitor and control every last corner of the country in pursuit of that goal. Are these priorities compatible? Is it possible for the government to conduct reasonable, necessary environmental protection of our crucial waterways while leaving law-abiding citizens, private landowners, family farmers and outdoor recreationists alone?

According to President Trump and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. I completely agree – here’s why:

Today, Administrator Wheeler unveiled a new plan for protecting rivers and other major bodies of water throughout the United States. Under the Clean Water Act, the administrator is legally required to have in place publicly-disclosed, predictable regulatory plans to secure environmental protection. Such protection starts with a definition: what constitutes “waters of the United States” as referenced in the Act?

The exact definition matters. Whatever gets called “navigable waters” is subject to significant regulatory control by the federal government. Everyone knows that when the Feds come in and tell you to jump, you have to respond “how high?” if you know what’s good for you. The issue at hand is whether the definition applies to major drinking water sources and other significant bodies, or truly to every “point water source” the Feds can get their hands on.

Continue reading at The Hill…

THE KANSAS CITY STAR: Guest Commentary: Trump administration’s Waters of the United States rule gives power back to states

Shortly after he took office, Trump issued an executive order directing EPA and the Army to review and replace, as appropriate, the 2015 definition with one that restores the rule of law and the role of states and landowners in managing their land and water resources. He also explicitly charged us to consider doing so in a manner consistent with Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in the landmark Rapanos case.

Our proposed new definition would do just that. It would end years of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. For the first time, we are clearly delineating the difference between federally protected wetlands and state protected wetlands. Our proposal would be clearer and easier to understand, and, inspired by Scalia, it adheres to the statutory limits of our authority. It would help a landowner understand whether a project on his or her property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals or wasting precious time. Finally, it would ensure that America’s water protections — among the best in the world — remain strong, while giving states and tribes the certainty to manage their waters in ways that best protect their natural resource and local economies.

The proposal identifies six categories of waters that are waters of the United States: traditional navigable waters, like the Mississippi River; tributaries, such as Rock Creek, which feeds into the Potomac River; certain lakes and ponds, such as Great Salt Lake; impoundments; wetlands that are adjacent to a water of the U.S. and certain ditches, such as those used for navigation or those affected by the tide.

It also details what are not waters of the U.S., such as features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall; groundwater; many ditches, including most roadside or farm ditches; prior converted cropland; stormwater control features; and wastewater and waste treatment systems.

Continue reading at The Kansas City Star…

Photo Credit: Staff

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Trump’s EPA rolls back Obama-era ‘puddle’ rule

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday put new limits on an Obama-era rule that subjected watering holes and ditches to federal clean water regulations by treating them like rivers and streams.

The EPA’s definition makes some key changes to the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule, but does keep a fair amount of the original rule intact.

“Our goal was not to reinvent the wheel,” said David Ross with EPA’s water pollution office. “Our goal was to try and simplify.”

He explained on a call with reporters that there are parts of the newly-proposed rule that are very similar to the Obama-era regulation. But the new Trump rule gives additional clarity to what does and doesn’t fall under Washington’s enforcement authority.

“The tributaries and adjacent wetlands, and maybe the ditches, is where the most significant differences are,” Ross said.

Continue reading at Washington Examiner…

Photo Credit: John Flesher/AP

CNN: EPA announces new definition of waters protected under Clean Water Act

The EPA announced plans to change the definition of which waters in the United States are protected under the Clean Water Act on Tuesday — a change President Donald Trump has been working toward since the beginning of his administration.

The new rule divides US waters into six categories: traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those navigable waters, certain ditches — including those used for navigation or affected by the tide, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments and wetlands that are adjacent to water covered by the rule.

The proposal excludes groundwater; ditches, including roadside and farm ditches; prior converted cropland; stormwater control features and wastewater and waste treatment systems. These waters will no longer be regulated by the federal government under the act.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the rule on Tuesday at an event at the agency’s headquarters. Army and EPA staff attended the event along with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and a handful of senators and representatives. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst spoke after the rule signing.

Continue reading at CNN…