Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order to review and rescind or revise the 2015 Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS rule.
At a press conference on Thursday, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler made the announcement to repeal WOTUS alongside Army Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil Works R.D. James.
Wheeler said this repeal is the first of a two-step process to define the scope of waters of the U.S. that are regulated under the Clean Water Act.
“Today’s final rule puts an end to an egregious power grab, eliminates an ongoing patchwork of clean water act regulations and restores a long-standing and familiar regulatory framework,” said Wheeler.
Since the rule was put into place in 2015, its definition has changed over time. The rule is currently in effect in 22 states and Washington D.C., while the regulations issued in the 1980s are still in effect in the rest of the country.
“Over time, the scope of jurisdiction has expanded from truly navigable waters and their major tributaries to eventually capturing isolated ponds and channels that only flow after it rains,” said Wheeler. “This patchwork of two different Clean Water Act regulations is unsustainable, and it inhibits projects that are critical for both economic development and environmental protection.”
Last winter, the EPA and Army issued a new proposed definition to identify where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. The second and final step of the process is the proposed, revised definition of WOTUS.
“Our revised and more precise definition would mean that farmers, property owners, and businesses will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit and more time upgrading infrastructure,” said Wheeler.
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who serves as the ranking member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, was also in attendance. As a farmer, he said farmers knew what it would do to their rights.
“WOTUS was not about clean water,” he said. “It was about a blatant overreach of the federal government to take away personal property rights as it pertained to farmers and landowners.”
Since President Trump took office, Wheeler said the EPA has finalized 46 deregulatiory actions, saving Americans more than $3.7 billion in regulatory costs.
In a statement, USDA secretary Sonny Perdue said the decision was “a major win for American agriculture.” Wheeler said the plan is to finalize the revised definition this winter.