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2017-12-06 / Agriculture and Outdoors

Proposal would delay Clean Water Act rule for two years

By Christine Souza

In an effort to provide more time to reconsider a definition of “waters of the United States,” and to prevent ongoing court cases from interfering in that process, federal agencies have proposed to delay the effective date of a controversial Waters of the U.S. rule by two years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army have been working to revise a 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule written by the agencies during the Obama administration. The 2015 rule drew widespread criticism from farmers, ranchers, agricultural groups, and others, for expanding the agencies’ Clean Water Act jurisdiction over water, land, and land use.

The rule has been put on hold by courts, and the Trump administration has undertaken to rescind and replace it. In a proposal released Nov. 22, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers proposed that the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule would not go into effect until two years after the Nov. 22 action is finalized and published in the Federal Register.

California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Kari Fisher said she hopes the two-year period “allows the agencies ample time to properly rewrite the Waters of the U.S. rule to avoid over-expansive misapplication of the Clean Water Act while protecting water quality, and providing farmers and ranchers with needed clarity and consistency.”

Implementation of the 2015 rule is currently on hold as a result of a nationwide stay issued by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but that stay could be affected by the pending Supreme Court case. The 2015 rule is also stayed in 13 states due to a North Dakota district court ruling.

Agencies will be collecting public comment until Dec. 13 on their request for the two-year delay in the effective date, and said they plan to move quickly to take final action in early 2018.

See “How to comment” for more.

The California Farm Bureau Federation grants permission to reprint this article.

How to comment

To comment on “Definition of Waters of the United States — Addition of Applicability Date to 2015 Clean Water Rule” identified by Docket ID No. EPAHQ OW-2017-0644, visit www.regulations.gov.

Deadline to submit is Wednesday, Dec. 13.

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