Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced on Tuesday that he wants to roll back the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” or WOTUS rule that critics say adds a layer of burdensome regulations that drive up the cost of construction.

Granger MacDonald, chair of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Kerrville, Texas, praised the decision.

“NAHB applauds President Trump, the EPA and the Corps (of Engineers) for taking the necessary actions to roll back this seriously flawed WOTUS rule that would harm housing affordability by requiring expensive and time consuming federal permits for countless ditches, isolated ponds and dry channels,” MacDonald said. “Earlier this year, the president honored a campaign promise made to home builders as he signed an executive order directing EPA and the Corps to begin the process of dismantling the controversial WOTUS rule. This is an important step forward to rework the flawed regulation that blatantly usurped state and local authority and move toward a more sensible WOTUS rule.”

An environmental expert with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, also applauded the move.

“WOTUS was a scheme to impose federal zoning on millions of acres of private land across the country,” said National Center Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen. “Landowners with ill-defined ‘waters of the United States’ on their property — including drainage ditches, puddles and stock ponds — would have had to seek government permits just to carry out normal farming, ranching or construction operations on their land.  It was an epic federal power grab.”

However, environmental groups were disappointed by the news.

“EPA’s proposal to rescind the Clean Water Rule calls into question basic protections for many streams and wetlands and jeopardizes clean water for all Americans, and nowhere is that threat greater to the health and wellbeing of our communities than in the South,” said Derb Carter, director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s North Carolina offices. “Compared to other regions, Southern states have more miles of streams, more acres of wetlands, and weak and underfunded state water quality programs, making the region especially vulnerable to the loss of federal clean water protections.”

The EPA, Department of Army and Army Corps of Engineers want to rescind the current WOTUS rule and replace it with the one that existed prior to 2015. According to the EPA, the proposed rule would be implemented “in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidance, and longstanding practice.”

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said Pruitt. “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.”


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