On June 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army announced their intent to revise the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) after concluding the Trump Administration’s rule is causing “significant environmental degradation,” according to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. In a press release, the Biden Administration said the definition was revised at the request of a “broad array of stakeholders” who “are seeing destructive impacts to critical water bodies under the 2020 rule.”
NPC objected to the reversal, saying, “With both producers and consumers reeling from the pandemic’s continued disruptions on the nation’s food supply chain, now is not the time to add costly, unnecessary regulatory burdens to growers with rules that have dubious environmental benefits,” said NPC VP of Environmental Affairs and Colorado potato grower Bob Mattive.
The action restores the protections in place prior to the Obama Administration’s 2015 WOTUS implementation. EPA said it anticipates developing a new rule that defines WOTUS that is informed by the “experience of implementing the pre-2015 rule, the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, and the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”
“For more than a decade, administrations on both sides of the aisle have engaged in a political tug-of-war with WOTUS, and, unfortunately, growers have been caught in the middle,” said NPC President and Maine potato grower Dominic LaJoie. “Just when we thought we enacted a reasonable definition of WOTUS that protected both the environment and agriculture, it is disheartening to see that commonsense rule thrown out the window. NPC will continue to fight for sensible environmental regulations, including a WOTUS that doesn’t equate seasonal field ditches with navigable tributaries.”
The decision to reverse the WOTUS rule comes on the heels of last Friday’s announcement by the Biden Administration to rescind or replace a number of Trump-era changes to the Endangered Species Act that were previously welcomed by the ag community.