The EPA and Department of the Army recently announced the signing of a proposed rule to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).
The proposed rule would repeal the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) and put back into place the pre-2015 definition of WOTUS, which would bring back the complicated and time-consuming significant nexus test. The significant nexus test determines whether the water in question, either alone or in combination with other similarly situated waters in the region, significantly affects the chemical, physical or biological integrity of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters or the territorial seas.
“AFBF is disappointed EPA is returning to an overly complicated interim water rule,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. “Overreaching regulations create major permit backlogs for the federal government and result in long delays for farmers and ranchers who are working to keep America fed. We are particularly concerned EPA is bringing back the significant nexus test. This case-by-case test threatens to unfairly regulate large areas of private land miles from the nearest navigable water.
“It’s troubling that EPA is putting a framework in place before completing the promised stakeholder engagement. Administrator (Michael) Regan pledged to listen to the needs of farmers and ranchers and committed to a rule that is not overly burdensome. We urge him to stay true to his word.”
The agencies will host virtual public hearings on the proposed rule in January. The hearings are scheduled for Jan. 12, 13 and 18, and people interested in speaking can register through the EPA’s website.