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Justice Among Governors Asking Biden Administration to Hit Pause on Broader Clean Water Rule

February 1, 2023

Mountaineer News

West Virginia Environmental

CHARLESTON, WV - Twenty-five Republican governors, including Jim Justice of West Virginia oppose a revised federal rule regulating U.S. waterways, citing uncertainty from an undecided U.S. Supreme Court case related to the rule.

The governors sent a letter to the Biden administration on Monday asking it to delay the implementation of the revised Waters of the United States rule since the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering Sackett v. EPA. The revised WOTUS rule, released on Dec. 30, reinstates pre-2015 water protections under the federal Clean Water Act. The rule was scaled back under the Trump administration, which triggered lawsuits from environmental groups. “The substance of the rule hinders State governments as we seek to give clarity and consistency to businesses, farms, and individuals regarding the regulatory framework for water,” the 25 GOP governors wrote. “The broad definitions used in the 514- page document only add to the confusing and complicated history of WOTUS. In fact, it appears that the EPA is seeking to regulate private ponds, ditches, and other small water features.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in December the revised rule applies to “traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, interstate waters, as well as upstream water resources that significantly affect those waters.”

“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act 50 years ago, it recognized that protecting our waters is essential to ensuring healthy communities and a thriving economy,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “Following extensive stakeholder engagement, and building on what we’ve learned from previous rules, EPA is working to deliver a durable definition of WOTUS that safeguards our nation’s waters, strengthens economic opportunity, and protects people’s health while providing greater certainty for farmers, ranchers, and landowners.” The governors also questioned the timing of the new rule, given ongoing inflation.

“Another burdensome and overbroad regulation from the federal government could not come at a worse time for America,” they wrote. “Having already squandered much of America’s energy independence, you should not increase costs for consumers by tying up energy production with even more red tape.” Environmental groups praised the Biden administration’s revised WOTUS rule.

“This comes at a time when we’re seeing unprecedented attacks on federal clean water protections by polluters and their allies,” Jon Devine, director of federal water policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement last month. “While the nation still has significant work to do to fully protect important waters, it’s encouraging to see the country taking a step in the right direction to protect the waters we need for everyone’s health and the environment.”

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