Biden administration WOTUS rule faces opposition

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Washington, D.C., approved a joint resolution to overturn the Biden administration’s rule on the Waters of the United States Feb. 28.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a resolution to overturn the rule, which ‘needs to be repealed,’ says Chairman David Rouzer.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Washington, D.C., approved a joint resolution to overturn the Biden administration’s rule on the Waters of the United States Feb. 28.

WOTUS has gained more attention with the Biden rule, which is a case of unnecessary bureaucratic overreach, argues David Rouzer, R-North Carolina, the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee chairman.

“With today’s committee action, the House has taken the first step necessary to rescind the Biden administration’s flawed WOTUS rule,” he says. “This rule needs to be repealed so Americans across the country are protected from subjective regulatory overreach making it harder to farm, build and generate economic prosperity.”

The resolution would have to be approved by the full house of Representatives and the senate before it would take effect.

In addition to the committee’s legislative approval, more than 20 state attorneys general have filed suit challenging the final rule which will go into effect March 20.

“The environmental extremists who wrote this unlawful rule have no interest in respecting our sovereignty or our natural resources,” says Ken Paxton, Texas state attorney general, after his office filed a preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of the rule.

“For this administration, this isn’t about environmental protection — it’s about federal control over states like Texas, and we aren’t going to allow it,” he says. “This rule is unlikely to survive our efforts to stop it permanently, and it is important that the court prevents the change in definition from going into effect until our case has been decided.”

The EPA contends that the final rule “restores essential water protections that were in place prior to 2015 under the Clean Water Act.”

“This final rule recognizes the essential role of the nation’s water resources in communities across the nation,” says Michael Connor, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works. “The rule’s clear and supportable definition of waters of the United States will allow for more efficient and effective implementation and provide the clarity long desired by farmers, industry, environmental organizations and other stakeholders.”

In practice, the waters are muddy, according to stakeholders such as Daryl Cates, American Soybean Association president, who flagged the rule’s “significant nexus” test among one of the most unclear elements.

“In the latest WOTUS iteration, EPA and Army Corps use a confusing two-part standard to identify which waters are considered WOTUS — continuing to rely on the ‘significant nexus’ standard that is currently before the Supreme Court in Sackett v. EPA, and expanding the reach of the ‘relatively permanent’ standard compared to the much-maligned 2015 rule,” says Cates. “Additional changes to the longstanding ‘prior converted cropland’ provisions will possibly stifle ag owners’ ability to sell their land to those they choose. We need champions in Congress to continue pushing for reversal of these potentially damaging provisions.”

Lawmakers are not the only ones sounding in on the rule, as industry associations have also shared their frustrations about the rule.

“The EPA’s latest rule on defining ‘waters of the United States’ is a statement of significant federal overreach that ignores long-held states’ authority to regulate intrastate water quality and with it, the Clean Water Act’s statutory mandate for cooperative federalism,” says Ted McKinney, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO. “NASDA appreciates efforts by Chairman Sam Graves and Subcommittee Chair David Rouzer, as well as their Senate counterparts, for their work in leading joint resolutions of disapproval.”

“Farmers and ranchers are committed to protecting the land and water they rely on to grow food for America’s families. Unfortunately, the back-and-forth over water regulations threatens the progress made to responsibly manage natural resources,” says Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president. “Farmers deserve rules that don’t require a team of attorneys and consultants to identify ‘navigable waters’ on their land.”

Nathan Bowen, Irrigation Association advocacy director, says clear and workable regulations are critical for the irrigation industry.

“Ultimately, it is imperative that those who work with water have a clear understanding of what constitutes federal jurisdiction and what does not, and that the scope of that jurisdiction protects our nations water resources while also being workable for irrigators,” says Bowen. “We expect there to be further movement on this policy and will continue to follow it and intervene when necessary to effectively represent our members’ interests.”

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