The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule will not be applicable for two years while it works to repeal and replace the Obama-era clean water regulation. The rule redefines the federal government's power over small waterways.
The repeal of this rule has been a top priority for President Trump, and the Trump administration formally proposed to repeal it last year. But in January 2018, the Supreme Court overturned a federal appeals court’s action halting the rule, so it could take effect soon.
EPA head Scott Pruitt stated that EPA is “taking action to reduce confusion and provide certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers. The 2015 WOTUS rule developed by the Obama administration will not be applicable for the next two years, while we work through the process of providing long-term regulatory certainty across all 50 states about what waters are subject to federal regulation.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council said that delaying the rule puts significant water supplies at risk, and said it would sue to stop the delay. “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is racing the clock to deny protections for our public health and safety. It’s grossly irresponsible, and illegal — and we’ll challenge it in court,” said Jon Devine, the group’s senior attorney.
The original 2015 rule was intended to define federal agencies’ scope and give them the authority to regulate small waterways such as ponds, headwaters and wetlands for pollution prevention. It was supposed to take effect in 2015, but various courts halted it.
Republicans and many business groups vehemently fought the rule, on the basis that it gave the federal government power over broad areas of land. Pruitt is working to develop a replacement rule that would likely give the federal government authority over a considerably smaller area.