COLORADO SPRINGS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin was in town Friday to make a major water policy announcement.
A 2015 ruling defining the “Waters of The United States” (WOTUS) under the Obama administration has been repealed Thursday.
EPA officials say it will provide more clarity for homebuilders, farmers and ranchers.
“”There have been land owners or farmers who have gotten in trouble for disturbing their land, which effects the water and they didn’t know that they were doing something that was violating the law and then they are facing millions of dollars of fines and civil liability,” said Sopkin.
The EPA added this will restore the previous regulatory framework that existed for 30 years prior to 2015.
Spokin also said it worked well and ranchers and farmers are very good consistently stewards of the land.
“This will provide clarity so that they (homeowners) know ahead of time that they are not going to be in violation of the law when they build homes,” Sopkin explained.
Thursday’s rule is the first step—Step 1—in a two-step rulemaking process to define the scope of “waters of the United States” that are regulated under the Clean Water Act. Step 1 provides regulatory certainty as to the definition of “waters of the United States” following years of litigation surrounding the 2015 Rule. The two federal district courts that have reviewed the merits of the 2015 Rule found that the rule suffered from certain errors and issued orders remanding the 2015 Rule back to the agencies. Multiple other federal district courts have preliminarily enjoined the 2015 Rule pending a decision on the merits of the rule. In this action, EPA and the Army jointly conclude that multiple substantive and procedural errors warrant a repeal of the 2015 Rule. For example, the 2015 Rule:
- Did not implement the legal limits on the scope of the agencies’ authority under the Clean Water Act as intended by Congress and reflected in Supreme Court cases.
- Failed to adequately recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of states to manage their own land and water resources.
- Approached the limits of the agencies’ constitutional and statutory authority absent a clear statement from Congress.
- Suffered from certain procedural errors and a lack of adequate record support as it relates to the 2015 Rule’s distance-based limitations.
With this final repeal, the agencies will implement the pre-2015 regulations, which are currently in place in more than half of the states, informed by applicable agency guidance documents and consistent with Supreme Court decisions and longstanding agency practice. The final rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
In December 2018, EPA and the Army proposed a new definition—Step 2—that would clearly define where federal jurisdiction begins and ends in accordance with the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court precedent. In the proposal, the agencies provide a clear definition of the difference between federally regulated waterways and those waters that rightfully remain solely under state authority.
Additional information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule.