Environmental Services Director
In February, the president signed an executive order that tells the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rescind or rewrite the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. This order put a process in motion to fix WOTUS, but didn’t outright fix WOTUS itself.
More recently, EPA and the Corps have filed an official proposal to withdraw the 2015 WOTUS rule.
This announcement forces EPA to begin a replacement rulemaking process re-evaluating the definition of WOTUS in the Clean Water Act.
Once the WOTUS rule is withdrawn, EPA will revert to the 2008 rule, the standard that was adopted through guidance, and develop a proposed rule as a replacement. This action will return power back to the states and provide regulatory certainty to farmers and ranchers, which is something the NDSA has been after since the beginning of the WOTUS rewrite.
The beef industry has been working on a clearer definition of WOTUS for some time and will continue to push toward this during the comment period.
One definition being discussed and considered is this: “navigable waters as traditionally understood and relatively permanent standing or continuously flowing bodies of water connected to traditional navigable waters and wetlands that have a continuous surface connection (i.e. a physical connection to waters described above).” Under this definition, it’s important to note that not all waters of the United States would be “waters of the United States.” Looking ahead, EPA must publish a final rule, likely in Fall 2017, and finalize the new rule, likely in Spring 2018.
Whatever the new rule is, it will need to be defendable all the way up to the Supreme Court level in case it gets petitioned in the future. It’s our position that the previous rule would not have held up in court.
While the rulemaking process continues, the NDSA will submit and solicit additional comments on behalf of North Dakota cattle producers.
Years ago, when President Warren Zenker was a child, his family took a summer vacation to Minnesota. When summer was over and he returned to Gackle Elementary School, Warren’s fourth-grade teacher asked the class about their summer vacations on the first day back to school.
She turned to Warren and asked, “What did you do over the summer?” “We vacationed in Minneapolis, Minn.,” he replied.
“Minneapolis sounds like an excellent spelling word,” the teacher said.
“Can you tell the class how to spell that?” Warren thought about it for a minute and then replied, “Come to think of it, we actually vacationed in Ohio.”