An attempt to repeal, replace the Clean Water Rule

Jordan Rasmussen
Center for Rural Affairs
Letter to the editor


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally began the process to withdraw the Clean Water Rule, as prescribed by executive order. Meetings among the EPA, governors, and other state and local environmental regulators have begun.

The issuance of a draft rule of repeal is only the first phase to withdraw and replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule. Before the rule can be rescinded, there must be a review of the rule, a public comment period, and justification for repeal as demonstrated through law and scientific evidence. Additional time will be required to draft and review any new definitions and rules brought forth by the EPA.

As written, the Clean Water Rule, also referred to as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, seeks to protect streams and wetlands that provide water for drinking, farming, industry, and recreation.

The rule defines protected bodies of water and retains existing exemptions from groundwater regulation and for normal farming and ranching practices like planting, harvesting, and moving livestock.

Ultimately, the Trump Administration seeks to only protect waterways that are “relatively permanent,” a narrower definition than guides the existing rule.

Due to a stay of the rule in the district court system, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have continued to operate under 1986 regulation and subsequent guidance documents to provide definition.

Much of the opposition to the Clean Water Rule stems from a concern of government over-regulation that was promulgated through the farm and ranch communities during the original rules process.