EPA, Corps put
two-year hold on 2015 WOTUS rule
Issue Date: February 7, 2018, California Farm Bureau Federation AgAlert
In response to judicial actions that could result in confusion about the status of the federal "waters of the United States" rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have finalized a rule adding an applicability date to the 2015 WOTUS rule, under the Clean Water Act.
"EPA is taking action to reduce confusion and provide certainty to America's farmers and ranchers," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. "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 2015 WOTUS rule, which redefined the scope of where the Clean Water Act applies, had an effective date of Aug. 28, 2015. A nationwide stay ordered by the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals halted implementation of the 2015 rule. But the U.S. Supreme Court determined last month that federal appeals courts do not have original jurisdiction to review these challenges and, therefore, the 6th Circuit lacked authority to issue a stay.
Given uncertainty about litigation in multiple district courts regarding the 2015 rule, EPA said, this latest action provides clarity and certainty about which definition of WOTUS applies nationwide, while the EPA and the Corps continue the process of reconsidering the 2015 WOTUS rule.
Last week's action by the agencies is separate from a two-step process they are taking to reconsider the 2015 rule.
The public comment period for the Step 1 rule, proposing to rescind the 2015 rule, closed in September 2017, and those comments are currently under review by the agencies. EPA and the Corps said they are also reviewing input from state, local and tribal governments, and other stakeholders as they work to develop a proposed Step 2 rule that would revise the definition of waters of the United States.
The 2015 rule came under criticism from farmers, ranchers and other landowners, who said it would have expanded the federal agencies' authority to regulate water and land.
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