- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Trump administration formally moved Wednesday to repeal the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule, dealing another blow to the Obama-era environmental regulatory regime.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army announced that the proposed water rule withdrawal would be published Thursday in the Federal Register, launching the 30-day comment period.

In addition to rescinding the 2015 Clean Water Rule, the agencies said they also will re-evaluate the definition of U.S. waters, in keeping with President Trump’s Feb. 28 executive order.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.,’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

The proposed repeal comes days after the Bureau of Land Management launched the process of rescinding the 2015 rule placing federal restrictions on hydraulic fracturing on public lands.

Rolling back the regulations essentially would codify the status quo, given that neither the fracking nor the water rule has been implemented.

In separate proceedings, two federal courts placed holds on the regulations last year pending the outcome of lawsuits filed by states, energy trade associations and others.

In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit stayed the water rule in reaction to a legal challenge brought by 31 states and a coalition of nearly 100 GOP House and Senate members.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat elected in November, withdrew from the lawsuit in April.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, a fierce critic of Obama administration rule, lauded the Trump administration for acting to rescind the regulations.

“This long-overdue withdrawal is a win for farmers, states, communities and private property rights,” Mr. Bishop said in a statement. “I want to thank the Trump Administration for their steadfast efforts to foster a level of rationality in environmental policy and begin detangling the web of crushing rules and regulations across the federal government.”

Mr. Trump’s executive order calls for keeping navigable waters clean “while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution,” said the EPA statement.

Although the water rule has yet to take effect, environmental groups have insisted that the effort to dismantle the federal regulations places the health of Americans at risk.

“President Trump’s reckless order is an assault on each and every one of us, our health and our well-being,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen after the Feb. 28 executive order was released.

“By attacking the Clean Water Rule and fundamental protections under the Clean Water Act, the president is putting the drinking water of 117 million people at risk, demonstrating that he puts the interests of corporate polluters above the public’s health,” he said.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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