US EPA Makes Major Water Policy Announcement In Johnston County

Using the backdrop of a Johnston County farm, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the repeal of a 2015 major Obama era water rule which had expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.

The repeal by the Trump Administration ends a regulatory patchwork that required implementing two competing Clean Water Act regulations and creating regulatory uncertainty across the United States.  The deregulatory action is the latest of 46 EPA deregulatory actions by President Trump, saving Americans more than $3.7 billion in regulatory costs.

The 2015 rule had been criticized for its overreaching regulations that some say reduced the water rights of landowners, farmers, and developers.  Under the EPA legislation, any stream, river, or lake was federally regulated, even bodies of water on private property, and strict limits were placed on the amounts of chemicals and pollution allowed.

The Trump administration had criticized the rule saying it was government-regulatory overreach and restricted farmers and landowners from using their property as they wanted.  The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly concluded there were multiple errors in the 2015 rule and a repeal was necessary. The agencies said the rule approached the limits of the agencies’ constitutional and statutory authority absent a clear statement from Congress and failed to protect the primary responsibilities and rights of states to manage their own land and water resources.

Under the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, landowners were required to obtain federal permits and in some cases farmers were prohibited from plowing and planting and needed EPA permits to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides on their crops if there was a chance it could run into water on their property.   President Trump’s Executive Order indicates that by repealing the rule it will promote economic growth and reduce unnecessary regulations.

“The repeal of this Obama-era power grab is a victory for North Carolina farmers and property owners,” said US Congressman Rouzer (R-NC).  “The rule as drafted by the Obama Administration would have given the EPA regulatory authority over almost any body of water — including water in a ditch after a storm — and even some dry land.  The Trump Administration’s decision today is a return to common sense.  Our farm families, small businesses, local governments and citizens no longer need to worry about an EPA bureaucrat dictating what can or cannot be done on their property.”

Environmentalists condemned Thursday’s announcement saying it would lead to more pollution.

US EPA Regional Administrator Mary S. Walker was joined by NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler at the Andy Penny Farm on Highway 50 North near McGee’s Crossroads for the Sept. 12th announcement.  Several other ceremonial announcements were made in other US EPA Regions across the United State the same day.

Photos by John Payne