By SUMAN NAISHADHAM and MATTHEW DALY Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration took action Thursday to restore federal protections for hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, overturning a Trump-era rule that was seen as the one of the environmental setbacks characteristic of this administration.
This is a regulation sometimes referred to as “United States Waters” or WOTUS, which defines the types of waterways eligible for federal protection under the Clean Water Act. The regulation has long been a point of contention between environmental groups, farmers, home builders, lawmakers and the courts.
The Environmental Protection Agency and military announcement reinstates a rule in place before 2015, as the Biden administration comes to its own, which should be next year.
The administration said in June that it planned to repeal the Trump-era water rule and issue new regulations defining which waterways are federally protected under the Clean Water Act. In August, an Arizona federal judge rejected the Trump water rule and reinstated a 1986 standard. Its scope was broader than the Trump rule but narrower than what was established by the Obama administration, which has provided federal protections to nearly 60% of the country’s waterways.
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The Trump-era rule has long been sought after by builders, oil and gas developers, farmers and others who have complained about the federal government’s overbreadth of the Obama administration’s restrictions that the Obama administration says them, extended in ravines, streams and ravines on farmland and other private property. They have often argued that extensive federal protections for waterways make it difficult to do their jobs.
The agency’s action on Thursday formalizes the measures it has already taken since the court order.
Environmental groups and public health advocates say strong federal rule is crucial to protect countless small streams, wetlands and other waterways vulnerable to pollution from development, industry and farms . The Trump-era rule has resulted in an estimated 25% reduction in the number of federally protected rivers and wetlands, officials said.
Groups including the National Association of Home Builders and the American Farm Bureau Federation have argued that the court should not have repealed the Trump rule without ruling on the merits of the legal challenges. The judge’s ruling in August “casts uncertainty on farmers and ranchers across the country and threatens the progress they have made to responsibly manage water and natural resources,” the agricultural bureau said at the ‘era.
An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on the court appeal.
In a statement, EPA administrator Michael Regan acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the definition of the water rule. âThe only constant with WOTUS has been change, creating a whiplash on how best to protect our waters in communities across America,â he said.
EPA spokesman Nick Conger said Thursday’s proposal included updates reflecting the latest science and Supreme Court rulings. The EPA also said long-standing exemptions for drinking water for farmers will continue.
Kelly Moser, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, who has pushed for stricter regulations, said the action shows this administration is “serious about quickly returning to a mode of protecting the quality of the nation’s water. instead of dismantling them “.
Agencies will accept public comments on the proposal until the end of January.
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