Repeal of Obama’s Waters Rule Pushed Back to 2019

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By David Schultz

The EPA is pushing back its timetable for repealing a landmark Obama-era waters jurisdiction rule by at least four months, a move that could prolong the confusion about how and where to implement it in the interim.

The agency is now planning on finalizing this repeal in March of 2019, rather than next month as originally planned, according to the Oct. 17 release of the Office of Management and Budget’s fall regulatory agenda.

This means the rule, known as Waters of the United States or WOTUS (RIN: 2040-AF74), will stay in effect in some states into the new year. The Trump administration had moved to block the implementation of this rule while it worked on a repeal, but that was partially struck down in court earlier this year.

The WOTUS rule redefines which bodies of water are covered by federal anti-pollution laws. Businesses, and especially the agriculture industry, strongly opposed it when the Obama administration first enacted it in 2015 because they were concerned it would bring small, ephemeral streams under the purview of federal pollution regulators.

The Environmental Protection Agency also has a parallel process to replace the WOTUS rule with something new (RIN: 2040-AF75). The agency’s acting leader, Andrew Wheeler, has said the EPA will releasing a draft version of this replacement within the coming days.

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