Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Legislation Introduced to Uphold Navigable Waters Protection Rule

by Colter Brown

Republican Senators on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee led the introduction of legislation to codify the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Montana Senator Steve Daines was one of the Senators leading the introduction of the bill that maintain the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), to prevent a return to burdensome regulations like those imposed by the Obama-Biden Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS), which Daines says threatened Montana farmers and ranchers.

“Montana farmers and ranchers are longstanding stewards of our lands and waterways—they shouldn’t be burdened with more bureaucratic red-tape that would allow the federal government to regulate every pond, puddle, or ditch,” Daines said.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was another of the senators behind the legislation. “I’ve worked over the years to put a stop to water rules that would be unworkable for farmers, real estate developers, and landowners,” Grassley says. “Our farmers and businesses are good stewards of the land, and we need to have a real law on the books so Americans can move forward without burdensome regulations.”

Grassley and fellow Iowa Senator Joni Ernst wrote a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to express concerns over the Biden Administration’s decision to roll back the previous administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule. He also gave a speech on the Senate floor highlighting the devastating effects if the rule gets rolled back.

Read the bill text HERE.

However, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are still moving forward with plans to rewrite the waters of the United States definitions.

The agencies have announced plans to hold a series of virtual public hearings, scheduled for  Aug. 18, 23, 25, 26 and 31. Also, EPA said it is planning a series of 10 “regionally focused” roundtables this fall and winter, expected to be announced at a later date.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a press statement the agencies are “committed to crafting an enduring” definition.

“Uncertainty over the definition of WOTUS has harmed our waters and the stakeholders and communities that rely on them,” he said.

EPA said the agencies will revise the WOTUS definition through two rulemakings.

“A forthcoming foundational rule would restore the regulations defining WOTUS that were in place for decades until 2015, with updates to be consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions,” the EPA said.

“A separate, second rulemaking process would refine this regulatory foundation and establish an updated and durable definition of ‘waters of the United States.’ A durable definition of WOTUS is essential to ensuring clean and safe water in all communities — supporting human health, animal habitat, agriculture, watersheds, flood management, local economies and industry.”

The EPA said the new rule would reflect the “experience of and input received from landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, tribes, local governments, community organizations, environmental groups, and disadvantaged communities with environmental justice concerns.”



Sen. Steve Daines/NAFB/DTN

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