WOTUS Revisited

Previously I talked about the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, which would substantially expand the EPA’s jurisdiction on private land. I’m blogging again about this topic for two reasons. First, the House is going to vote on a resolution this week on a “resolution of disapproval” which has already been passed by the Senate. This resolution goes to the President’s desk and if passed would withdraw the rule for good. In addition, other things have come to light since this hoopla began, such as unethical actions taken by the EPA, that have clouded the decision making around the rule.

What the EPA would define as a "water of the United States". Complete with earthworms.

This “Water of the United States” is navigable by paper boats, so it counts.

The premise behind the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule is that previously, only waters defined as “navigable,” meaning you can take a boat on them, were subject to the restrictive EPA regulations. As expected, some rivers and lakes could kind of fit a boat, but not really, so there was a little gray area. After a legal case that dealt with this gray area, the Supreme Court asked the EPA to clear this up. What the EPA did instead of picking their favorite fishing boat as the measure for navigable, was declare any place where water might be as “navigable.” This means that the road ditch or a low spot where water runs to in a thunderstorm are under tight EPA scrutiny.

Since this affected enormous areas of private property, several states sued the EPA and won an injunction. This prevented the EPA from enforcing the rule in these states, but doesn’t eliminate the rule. Further courts will look at it, and if not removed by Congress it will end up in the Supreme Court. The rule also raised the ire of a large group of lawmakers. The Senate voted to disapprove of the rule, and is now going to be voted upon in the House.

Basically, if Congress votes to eliminate WOTUS and that’s signed by POTUS, it won’t end up in front of SCOTUS

In addition to the normal hullabaloo that goes on in Washington, the New York Times uncovered some sketchy dealings by the EPA during the approval process. During the period when the rule was open to public comment, the EPA utilized Thunderclap and other social media programs to drum up support for the rule. The Government Accountability Office looked into this allegation and ruled the the EPA violated federal law with this action.

In short, the EPA took a simple request for clarification too far, turned it into a land grab, and then violated federal law to promote their mistake. Farmers and ranchers are all for clean water and make a concerted efforts to be good stewards of that resource, but no one should be subject to a poorly written rule like this. Before the House vote, please contact your representative and let him or her know that the WOTUS rule needs to be scrapped. Then we can get back to focusing on actually keeping our waters clean and healthy.

-Jake

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