Proposed WOTUS Definition Provides Regulatory Certainty and Recognizes State’s Key Role in Protecting Water Resources

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) proposed definition of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) provides long-overdue clarity regarding the scope of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction, and restores the appropriate balance between state and federal authority over waterways, the National Mining Association (NMA) said recently.

“States have an important role in safeguarding land and water resources, and EPA and the Corps’ newly-proposed WOTUS definition restores the proper balance between state and federal environmental protections outlined in the U.S. Constitution and the Clean Water Act. Our laws were designed to both protect our nation’s waterways and provide the regulatory certainty necessary for a thriving economy. This new rule eliminates the harmful federal overreach of the last administration and resolves the uncertainty that has plagued Clean Water Act implementation for decades, offering a long-sought clear path forward for the benefit of all,” said Hal Quinn, NMA President and CEO.

The 2015 WOTUS rule unlawfully expanded the scope of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction and, contrary to its intended purpose, only added to the confusion surrounding the question of which waters are federally regulated and which are protected by the states. Rather than provide clear delineations between state and federal waterways, the rule provided federal regulators with expanded authority to regulate marginal waters while calling into question the status of areas never before subject to federal jurisdiction. The result: increased confusion and additional costs, delays and financial risks for nearly every sector of the economy, including the mining industry.

In 2017, EPA and the Corps wisely proposed repealing the Obama-era rule, thereby taking an important step towards addressing a deeply problematic regulation that completely ignored the balance between federal and state water regulation, as well as constitutional limits on federal authority.
The proposed EPA and Army Corp of Engineers definition would provide additional clarity for the regulated public, and would solidify the role of the states in protecting water quality envisioned by Congress in its enactment of the Clean Water Act.

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