Court Halts Trump Definition of Protected Water, New Definition Pending

A case in federal court has put pre-2015 rules for what waters qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act back into place. For now.

Last week a federal judge in Arizona ruled that the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule was too flawed to keep in place.

The case was brought to Judge Rosemary Marquez by six Indigenous tribes, complaining that the rule failed to protect certain waters that affect navigable waters.

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule narrowed the reach of the Clean Water Act, excluding 12 categories of Waters of the United States, several of which are features common on farms.

Since June, President Joe Biden’s administration has been working on a new definition. For now, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the rules are back to where they were before 2015.

The EPA also announced it will review the language as it considers a new definition. WOTUS is defined by the EPA and the Army Corps.

Iowa Republicans Sen. Joni Ernst and Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks have both sponsored legislation to either keep the NWPR in place or redefine WOTUS. Both have support from their Republican colleagues.


by Nikoel Hytrek

1 Comment on "Court Halts Trump Definition of Protected Water, New Definition Pending"

  • Thanks, ISL, for covering this story.

    To hear the shrieks and laments from the Iowa Farm Bureau and its big-ag buddies, you’d think that if WOTUS were redefined, no farmer would ever again be able to drive a tractor over a mud puddle. The truth is that agriculture was and is mostly exempt from WOTUS in the first place. The exceptions have to do with filling in streams and wetlands. This is from an environmental law professor:

    “Even before this new rule, farmers could continue farming lands that once were streams or wetlands, even if those lands continued to flood. They also could continue to discharge large amounts of pollutants into wetlands, streams, lakes, and rivers. And they could establish new farming operations in areas where wetlands or streams presently existed if removing those wetlands or streams would not have a “significant nexus” to water quality in traditionally navigable waterways. ”

    The most cynical and hilarious argument being used by the Iowa Farm Bureau is that a new definition of WOTUS would prevent Iowa farmers and landowners from doing the wonderful farm conservation they are all just dying to do. Yeah, right. If anyone actually believes that, I know a very generous Nigerian prince who really, really wants to meet you.

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