CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is frustrated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) plans to reverse a Trump era “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” according to a Thursday release from the governor’s office.
The EPA announced Wednesday that the agencies intend to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” with the aim of better protecting water resources “that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth.”
The EPA says that a variety of stakeholders have described “destructive impacts to critical water bodies” under the 2020 Trump administration era “Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”
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“After reviewing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as directed by President Biden, the EPA and Department of the Army have determined that this rule is leading to significant environmental degradation,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in the Wednesday release. “We are committed to establishing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ based on Supreme Court precedent and drawing from the lessons learned from the current and previous regulations, as well as input from a wide array of stakeholders, so we can better protect our nation’s waters, foster economic growth, and support thriving communities.”
The EPA says that the lack of protections under the Trump era rule is particularly significant to arid states like New Mexico and Arizona “where nearly every one of over 1,500 streams assessed has been found to be non-jurisdictional.”
“The agencies are also aware of 333 projects that would have required Section 404 permitting prior to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, but no longer do,” the EPA adds. “As a result of these findings, today, the Department of Justice is filing a motion requesting remand of the rule.”
The EPA adds that the Clean Water Act prohibits pollutants from being discharged from a point source to navigable waters “unless otherwise authorized under the Act.”
“Navigable waters are defined in the Act as ‘the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas,'” the EPA adds. “Thus, ‘waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) is a threshold term establishing the geographic scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.”
Gordon expressed his frustration with the planned changes as follows: “It is frustrating and deeply disturbing to see that the agencies are yet again pivoting, without any consultation with Governors, on a very important matter governing the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction. I see no need to revisit the rulemaking and am happy with where the rule currently stands. I also want to remind the agencies that states are co-regulators of our waters. The EPA and Corps should tap into our expertise and approach us cooperatively as the agency continues its review.”