A Nebraska coalition of agriculture and business and local government agencies have praised Thursday’s announcement of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer repeal of the 2015 “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) Rule.
“This is a landmark victory for private property owners and those who support private property rights. This is also a major win for states, including Nebraska, who had argued the WOTUS Rule had gone too far in attempting to infringe upon states’ rights to manage waters under their jurisdiction,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.
Nebraska Farm Bureau is one of 30 organizations that are part of the Nebraska Common Sense coalition.
According to the coalition, the 2015 WOTUS Rule would have redefined the definition of “waters of the U.S.” under the federal Clean Water Act, and in the process, expanded the scope of waters subject to federal regulation, as well as expand powers to regulate land and land features that collect and convey waters.
“(The) announcement is a result of Nebraskans working together. There is no doubt the repeal of this rule would not have happened if not for the work of our coalition, its partners, our national counterparts, and the efforts of our elected leaders,” said Bryan Slone, president of Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to the coalition, President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 to start the process for repealing the 2015 Rule. As a part of the rollback, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a replacement regulation for the 2015 WOTUS rule in December of 2018. The new rule is currently under development following a public input period that ended earlier this year. Separately, several legal challenges, including one with involvement by the state of Nebraska, had been filed against the 2015 Rule.
“We continue to provide support and input to the agencies as they develop a more common-sense approach to provide protections for U.S. waters that won’t infringe on individual rights or those of local and state authorities,” said Larry Dix, Nebraska Association of County Officials executive director. “We’re committed to being part of a positive solution. The repeal of the 2015 WOTUS rule is a critical piece of the puzzle as we work with the agencies on a better path forward.”
State politicians were applauding the repeal of the WOTUS rule.
“I’m pleased that the EPA, under President Trump, has restored the simpler and clearer definition that existed prior to the 2015 rule change,” Ricketts said. “This decision removes regulatory impediments to economic growth while preserving our country’s commitment to the wise stewardship of water resources.”
Ricketts said the 2015 rule had taken authority away from states, transferring it to the federal government. He said the EPA’s repeal of the rule acknowledges that states have primary responsibility to regulate their own water resources.
Rep. Adrian Smith said the repeal of the WOTUS rule was great news as it gives states back the power to regulate their non-navigable waters.
“I have fought this troubling regulation since its inception,” Smith said. “I thank President Trump and the administration for their commitment to reining in the federal government and repealing this rule.”
Under the Clean Water Act, as enacted in 1972, the EPA’s jurisdiction is statutorily limited to navigable waters. Regulation of non-navigable waters is the responsibility of the states. In 2015, the Obama administration instituted a new regulation to vastly expand EPA’s jurisdiction to include virtually all water flows, from ditches to prairie potholes, even on private land.
Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she has “long been an advocate for eliminating the 2015 WOTUS, which represented an unprecedented overreach by the federal government at the expense of families, communities, and businesses. Nebraskans own the water in our state.”
“We take great care of this precious natural resource,” Smith said. “After years of fighting WOTUS through legislative efforts, I’m pleased to see the Trump administration end this harmful rule once and for all. ”
Fischer said that in 2015, the Obama administration implemented a rule that sought to clarify which waterways and wetlands are regulated as “waters of the U.S.” under the 1972 Clean Water Act. She said this regulation allowed the federal government to expand its jurisdiction to nearly all water in Nebraska and across the country. Legal action blocked the rule in 27 states, including Nebraska.
Sen. Ben Sasse, said the repeal was “... another step forward and a win for Nebraska farmers and ranchers.”
“It’s great news for anyone who understands that the federal government doesn’t need to be regulating puddles and ditches,” Sasse said.