EPA and Army Corps seek to rescind clean water rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released a proposal Tuesday to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule, the latest move by the Trump administration to unwind aggressive environmental regulations put in place under former President Barack Obama.The agencies are working to rescind the Waters of the United States rule and reinstate the language of the rule before it was changed in 2015 by the Obama administration.The rule updated the federal Clean Water Act to define what waterways — including smaller streams, rivers and other bodies — can be regulated by the federal government, stirring anger by the agriculture and energy industries, which said it gave regulators too much authority.”We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.In February, President Donald Trump said during the signing of an executive order calling for a review of the rule that the act should apply only to navigable waters that affect interstate commerce.Some lawmakers and officials from states with large rural areas praised the move.”Out-of-state D.C. bureaucrats shouldn’t impose regulations that hurt Montana farmers, ranchers and landowners,” said the state’s Republican senator, Steve Daines.The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) welcomed the change, saying the 2015 rule was flawed and “fraught” with procedural issues and violations of congressional intent.”State laws and programs partner with EPA, farmers and ranchers, and local entities to protect clean water every day,” said NASDA President Michael G. Strain on Tuesday. “We look forward to working cooperatively with the EPA in developing — and eventually implementing — a new rule.”Several states have a lawsuit pending over the aggressive Obama-era regulations, with N.C. joining the suit under former Gov. Pat McCrory. N.C. farmers, developers and their advocates said the rule goes too far in expanding federal authority over small streams and wetlands. However, in April the Cooper administration retreated from the litigation.North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed a petition on behalf of N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Secretary Michael Regan to withdraw North Carolina from the multistate lawsuit.”It is an overreach of federal authority on private property,” said Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau after Cooper’s withdrawal. “It gives the federal government control of farm land in North Carolina. We all support clean water, but this is more than about clean water — it’s about control of the land.”Pruitt agrees and submitted the proposal to rescind the rule. Environmental activists said the rollback will lead to pollution.”Revoking the clean water rule will open the door to the pollution and bulldozing of some of America’s most important wetlands,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director at the Center for Biological DiversityThe rule had been placed on hold in 2015 by a federal court appeals court.Reuters News Service contributed to this report.