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WOTUS: Finally Finished

September 12, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, members of the Western Caucus released the following statements after the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers repealed the unlawful Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule:

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "The Obama-era WOTUS Rule was an abysmal failure and represented one of the most egregious examples of federal overreach in my lifetime. President Obama’s land and water grab gave unprecedented power to bureaucrats of the D.C. Swamp at the expense of farmers, ranchers, small business owners and the American people. The Western Caucus led the charge against this misguided regulation and is thrilled to see it put out to pasture. President Trump and Administrator Wheeler’s repeal of this job-killing regulation is welcome news and will restore decision making to states and local communities."

Chairman Emeritus Rob Bishop (UT-01): "This welcomed move by the Trump administration is a win for Americans across the country. The benefits will be felt especially by farmers, ranchers, and landowners. This return to efficiency will usher in a new era of certainty and clarity for those who rely upon the land to support their families. Additionally, this move reinforces the administration’s commitment to paring down bureaucracy and reducing the federal government’s unnecessary intrusion into people’s lives."

Chief Regulatory Reform Officer Andy Biggs (AZ-05): "The Obama-era WOTUS rule amounted to one of the biggest federal overreaches in modern history. I applaud the Trump administration for taking action against this regulatory nightmare that has caused significant financial burdens on some of our country’s hardest workers."

Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04): "WOTUS has always been an inefficient and unclear set of government regulations that didn't improve water quality. The vague definition has caused confusion among farmers about what actually fell under its parameters, and it added even more red tape to the regulatory process. I'm glad to see that the EPA is clarifying and reining in the broad overreach of these regulations and restoring the federal-state partnership that Congress originally intended under the Clean Water Act. These measures will provide much-needed clarity."

Chief Rules Officer Dan Newhouse (WA-04): "As a farmer from Central Washington, I understand how important clean water is. However, when the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States rule expanded the definition of a ‘navigable waterway’ to include even streams, ditches, and ponds, it left many landowners subject to unprecedented federal overreach and open to divisive litigation. I applaud Administrator Wheeler for finally providing relief to our nation’s farm families. I know the farmers and ranchers of Central Washington will continue to be good stewards of their land and the environment, and this final rule will give them the certainty they deserve."

Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02): "Farmers and ranchers across Oregon have expressed their concerns with the overreaching Obama-era definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). They worried that the intermittent stream or irrigation ditch would be subject to burdensome new federal regulation. The EPA’s release of the final rule, which abolishes the Obama-era rule, is welcome news across rural Oregon. I applaud President Trump and his administration for listening to our farmers and ranchers and acting to repeal the flawed original rule and appropriately redefine Waters of the United States."

Congressman Morgan Griffith (VA-09): "The Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule unlawfully grabbed power for the Federal Government at the expense of farmers and landowners. Today’s announcement of a final rule repealing the old one is welcome news. The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are now taking a better approach to protecting water quality."

Congressman Louie Gohmert (TX-01): "The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action today is fabulous news for all those who believe in the Constitution. For the Obama Administration to grab control over every single drop of water or state local or private land was such an abdominal, unconstitutional power grab. Constituents from every area of my district were outraged at the Obama Administration’s totalitarian seizure of control over non-federal property and water. “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule extended federal authority over all the country’s streams, rivers and wetlands. The EPA made the right call to safeguard the water rights of hard-working Americans by ending the federal power grab the Obama Administration engineered."

Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-07): "The EPA’s announcement of the final repeal of the Obama Administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States Rule is welcome relief for our nation’s farmers, ranchers, homebuilders, and homeowners. The previous rule raised serious concerns about the expansion of federal power over private property rights. The rule was also clouded by the EPA’s public promotion campaign that violated federal law. I have been fighting tooth and nail to repeal the 2015 WOTUS rule since it was first proposed. The next WOTUS rule must maintain the important balance between private property rights and environmental protection. I look forward to working with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to preserve the federal-state partnership in enforcing the Clean Water Act."

Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03): "I’ve been fighting for the repeal of the Obama-era rule since joining Congress, and thanks to President Trump’s leadership today, Hoosier farmers need not worry the EPA will come knocking on their door wanting to regulate a puddle after a fresh rain. By permanently repealing this prime example of government overreach, our farmers can focus on growing our nation’s food."

Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02): "Since the previous Administration put the WOTUS Rule in place, I have been fighting tooth and nail to overturn it. The harmful effects it has on our farmers, ranchers, and small businesses are felt nationwide. Moreover, the WOTUS Rule allowed Washington bureaucrats to regulate the streams and creeks in the backyards of Oklahomans, when in reality these bureaucrats don’t know the first thing our backyards. I am grateful for this Administration for repealing this rule and delivering the long overdue relief from this unlawful water grab that our farmers and ranchers desperately need."

Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03): "The Trump Administration should be applauded for throwing the Obama-era WOTUS rule out the window. WOTUS expanded federal power by regulating every stream, creek and drainage ditch – labeling them “navigable waterways” – when oftentimes these watercourses only hold water during rain events. They could hardly be considered “navigable!” WOTUS was nothing more than an egregious executive overreach by President Obama in his effort to wildly expand government control through an unconstitutional power grab."

Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06): "I applaud the Trump Administration for finally repealing the harmful and overly burdensome Waters of the U.S. rule. Through the EPA’s final WOTUS rule we witnessed a classic example of bureaucratic overreach by the Obama Administration. I believe that we can be good stewards of our land and waterways without harming our nation’s farmers, manufacturers, and home builders. I am pleased to see that they are freed from this intrusive rule."

Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42): "The 2015 WOTUS rule was a clear example of federal overreach, undermining states’ traditional control of their land and water resources through an unworkable federal mandate. As numerous federal court rulings have demonstrated, WOTUS was an illegal expansion of the Clean Water Act and, as a result, created a patchwork of different federal standards across the nation. I applaud the repeal of this misguided regulation, and I look forward to the Administration finalizing a right-sized definition of waters of the United States."

Congressman Dusty Johnson (SD-At Large): "I applaud President Trump for scrapping the Obama-era WOTUS rule. For years, South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers feared fines & penalties for normal farming practices. Today’s new rule is a win for clean water and American agriculture."

Congressman James Comer (KY-01): "It's encouraging to see steps taken by the EPA and Army Corps to repeal the 2015 WOTUS Rule, continuing on President Trump's plan of deregulation, ending inconsistent regulatory patchwork and allowing for important projects to move forward. Implementing the pre-2015 Rule regulations will provide certainty to farmers and businesses who deserve a consistent and familiar regulatory framework. I look forward to the benefits repealing the 2015 Rule will have on Kentucky’s inland waterways and river industry and our farmers."

Background:

Today, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers repealed the unlawful Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule:

In March 2014, the Obama Administration released a new regulation that would assert Clean Water Act jurisdiction over nearly all areas with even the slightest of connections to water resources, including man-made conveyances. Specifically, the Obama WOTUS rule attempted to expand agency control over 60% of our country’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands that were previously non-jurisdictional.

Last Congress, more than 170 bipartisan members cosponsored legislation calling for WOTUS to be repealed and another 120 bipartisan signed a letter urging repeal. That request can be found here.

The final Step 1 rule will end the regulatory patchwork that included implementing two competing Clean Water Act regulations, creating uncertainty across the United States. The EPA plans to move forward with finalizing a Step 2 proposal that will provide states and tribes more flexibility to determine how best to manage waters within their borders.

The finalized rule can be found here.

Courtesy of the EPA

The previous administration’s 2015 rule wasn’t about water quality. It was about power – power in the hands of the federal government over farmers, developers, and landowners.

This action continues President Trump’s deregulatory agenda. Under President Trump, EPA has finalized 46 deregulatory actions, saving Americans more than $3.7 billion dollars in regulatory costs. We have an additional 45 actions in development projected to save billions more.

Currently, the 2015 Rule is in effect in 22 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories, which will be eliminated with this repeal, and the previous regulations, issued in the 1980's, are in effect in 27 states. The applicability of the 2015 Rule in New Mexico is currently under federal court consideration.

The agencies action restores the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 Rule and will end the inconsistent regulatory patchwork that has created uncertainty and has hindered projects from moving forward that can benefit both the environment and the economy.

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