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EPA repeals definition of US waters

November 8th, 2019 by Dakota Software Staff

EPA repeals definition of US waters

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army recently took action to revise the previously established definition of Waters of the United States, a change that will likely impact a wide range of organizations. NPR reported this action is the first step in a wider-reaching effort by the EPA and White House to create a new set of rules around which waterways will qualify for federal government oversight and protection.

The previous rule, created under the Obama administration, was designed to protect U.S. waters from pollution. A variety of business concerns and state governments pushed back against and legally challenged the rule in the past, while environmentalists and other companies supported the decision.

What the rule change could mean for businesses

"The EPA will revert the Waters of the United States definition to a previous version."

The deregulation plan has been in the works for a few years. It was part of President Donald Trump's larger plan for deregulation across the federal government, a key campaign plank.

"Today, EPA and the Department of the Army finalized a rule to repeal the previous administration's overreach in the federal regulation of U.S. waters and recodify the longstanding and familiar regulatory text that previously existed," said Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator, in a press release from the organization. "Today's Step 1 action fulfills a key promise of President Trump and sets the stage for Step 2 – a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers nationwide."

The update to the Waters of the United States definition will mean less federal oversight of smaller bodies of water, such as streams and wetlands, as USA Today reported. Federal protection would be limited to larger rivers and lakes, along with a more limited list of smaller bodies and streams — in many cases those influenced by tides or used for navigation. This approach would leave the regulation of those less substantial waterways to state governments.

While the change will mean less regulation in the short term once it's finalized, the rollback may not lead to less oversight in the long term. That shift from a single set of federal rules to a patchwork of up to 50 different regulatory approaches could prove more complicated. Businesses with locations across multiple states could have to comply with several different waterway regulations as opposed to a single one.

To learn more about how Dakota Software can support your company's efforts for comprehensive compliance with a variety of environmental rules, even in the face of major changes with those regulations, get in touch with us today.

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