Trump administration to revoke water protection rule; farmers praise plan

Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Peter Lopez

The Trump administration is finalizing plans to repeal an Obama-era water protections rule.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the EPA and the Army would reinstate water rules from the 1980s and then begin redefining which waterways can be regulated, a task to be completed by this winter.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said repealing the rule was "at the top of the list" of items the administration wanted to roll back, because it was an "egregious power grab".

Under the 1972 Clean Water Act, the EPA's jurisdiction was statutorily limited to navigable waters.

While the opinion of the Supreme Court only held that isolated wetlands could not be considered jurisdictional waters exclusively on their basis as habitat for migratory birds, the practical result was that very few isolated wetlands were considered to be jurisdictional.

"That's what the federal government is here to do", Southerland said, "they make sure that there is a level playing field between states for water and air quality".

But critics say the rollback will speed the conversion of wetlands and headwaters, which provide critical habitat for wildlife and support the nation's drinking water supply. "The EPA is abdicating its mission to protect our environment and our health".

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers proposed placing the waters the government can regulate into six categories.

The repeal remedies the legal and procedural deficiencies of the 2015 Rule, addresses the extensive litigation surrounding it, and recodifies and restores a regulatory process that has been in place for years. "It also put more local land-use decisions in the hands of unelected bureaucrats". America's large rivers, lakes and reservoirs may capture more attention, but they are all the product of the waters that feed them.

The Natural Resources Defence Council said the Trump administration's action would be challenged in court.

"The Montana Farm Bureau has opposed this rule since it was devised in 2015", said Hans McPherson, the bureau's president, in a statement. 'Where it has been enforced, it has protected important waterways and wetlands, providing certainty to all stakeholders'.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said Farm Bureau will now "work to ensure a fair and reasonable substitute that protects our water and our ability to work and care for the land".

"Nothing in the Obama regulations that came out prevented me from farming the way I was previously farming", she said. "And, because clean water and healthy rivers are absolutely vital to our nation's security and our future". In 2017, he signed an executive order directing the agency to reconsider the rule and abide by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's plurality opinion in a case on the issue. That rule, given previous proposals by the administration, is expected to strip protection from isolated wetlands and ephemeral streams. Courts blocked it from ever taking effect in others including Iowa. Thursday's action extended the refutation to the remaining 22 states and returned standards to 1986 levels.

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