With one of the executive orders that have characterized the beginning of his term, President Donald Trump ordered the EPA on February 28 to begin reconsidering the Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS), also known as the Clean Water Rule, in order to “[rescind] or [revise] the rule, as appropriate and consistent with law.”
WOTUS has been a hot-button topic since it came into force in 2015, particularly among agricultural and farm-business groups who felt it represented unreasonable federal control over farmlands.
In a press release following the President’s order, American Soybean Association president Ron Moore celebrated the decision, saying, “Our concern with the rule has always been about the non-specific and overly broad nature of the rule as written, and never about the paramount goal of cleaner water and more environmentally sound farming practices.”
Explaining that farmers rely on clean water and soil to safeguard their crops and their livelihoods, Moore argued that they need “a seat at the table” instead of rules imposed from above.
“This rule sought to expand EPA’s authority into places where it was either unnecessary or duplicative, without any reasonable justification for doing so,” Moore said. “We look forward to collaborating with President Trump, Administrator Pruitt, and others in the administration and Congress to pursue clean water goals in a way that respects both the environment and the farmer as an environmentalist.”
What will follow, however, is unknown, as the classification of water laid down in WOTUS is now up for question. WOTUS followed on years of confusion about the applicability of the 1972 Clean Water Act, which regulated what could be allowed into the “waters of the United States,” but did not classify which waters were considered as such. WOTUS was an attempt to provide a piece of legislation that would answer all questions about which waters constituted those of the U.S. Following a puzzling split Supreme Court decision in 2006, those wetlands subject to the Clean Water Act and requiring permits for development became determined on a case-by-case basis. WOTUS was an attempt to solve that confusion by deciding which waters were covered by the Act across the board.
About Jesse Staniforth
Jesse Staniforth is a Montreal-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor covering a variety of different beats. He reports regularly on Indigenous issues for The Nation magazine, serving the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee, as well on Information Security issues for SC Magazine. His stories have appeared in a wide variety of other publications, from the Toronto Star and Metro News through AskMen.com and University Affairs. After editing several thousands of pages' worth of food preparation training materials for a hospitality industry group, he grew fascinated with the subject of food safety. Reach him at email@example.com.