At the National Association of Manufacturers’ headquarters last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James and NAM CEO Jay Timmons announced a major victory for manufacturers. The EPA has decided to withdraw the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that was finalized during the Obama administration.
Manufacturers and others have criticized the rule since 2015, arguing that it was overly broad and went much further than the Clean Water Act allowed. In some cases, the rule—which was supposed to regulate places covered in water—was used to control land that is not wet. Opponents of the rule warned that it threatened manufacturing jobs while failing to adequately protect clean water, and a patchwork of legal challenges created uncertainty across the country and paralysis among the businesses and landowners affected.
“The 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 Wheeler. “Last week’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, homebuilders and developers nationwide.”
“This decision by the EPA clears away a vague and onerous rule that put impossible burdens on manufacturers and other landowners nationwide,” said Ross Eisenberg, Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers. “Americans deserve clean water, and that requires smart water policy that is practical and effective.”
Over the past four years, the NAM submitted multiple sets of comments regarding the 2015 WOTUS rule to better inform policymakers. In addition, the NAM supported President Donald Trump’s 2017 executive order instructing the EPA to rescind the rule, and the NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action has been in active litigation against the rule since July 2015. The legal battle included a unanimous victory for the MCLA at the U.S. Supreme Court on a key procedural issue, and earlier this year federal judges invalidated the rule.
With the 2015 WOTUS rule now rescinded, the NAM is continuing its work to provide policy insight and expertise for a new version of the rule that is consistent with the Clean Water Act and protects American waters while providing certainty for manufacturers and landowners around the country.
“Manufacturers will continue to fight for fair and clear regulations that empower us to be responsible stewards of the environment while growing the U.S. economy,” said Eisenberg. “Our industry represents more than 12.8 million employees in communities across the country, and we are committed to ensuring that the environment in which they live and work is safe, clean and well-protected.”