On Jan. 23, the Trump administration announced it had finalized its rewrite of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule will limit the official definition of what constitutes a federally protected water body and is the culmination of a three-year effort by the administration to nullify a 2105 Obama-era rule which expanded the types of waterways protected by under Federal anti-pollution regulations.

The new rule is far narrower and excludes isolated wetlands and ephemeral streams, which only flow after heavy rainfall.  Many farmers, ranchers and others who felt the broader Obama-era definition would lead to more costly federal oversight see this as a win.

Meanwhile, many Democrat-led states and environmental groups are expected to file suit against the administration and seek to have the rewrite struck down in court.  In addition, the conservative group, The Pacific Legal Foundation, may join environmentalists in their attempt to take down the rule – stating that it does not go far enough to protect farmers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers announced the new rule shortly before EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler spoke at a convention of the National Association of Homebuilders in Las Vegas.

Following release of the rule, the head of EPA’s Office of Water, David Ross, stated, "If it normally flows in, it is in.  We believe our rule provides clearer instruction to the public."

The new rule will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which could happen within days. (Bloomberg BNA, 1/23/20 and 1/24/20)

To read about the new rule on EPA’s website, click here:  https://www.epa.gov/nwpr/navigable-waters-protection-rule-step-two-revise

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This Week in Washington is an online news portal from the Water Environment Federation that provides updates on the latest legislative and regulatory developments that affect the water and wastewater communities. It provides concise reports of related bills, regulations, legal decisions, congressional hearings, and other federal government actions, following key issues from introduction to final determination.

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This Week in Washington is compiled by the WEF Government Affairs department. Please contact us with any questions or comments.

Claudio Ternieden
Senior Director of Government Affairs & Strategic Partnerships

Steve Dye
Legislative Director

Amy Kathman
Government Affairs Specialist