ND congressional delegation, farm groups want improved WOTUS policy

North Dakota’s U.S. senators provided an update to The Minot Daily News on Waters of the U.S. and its current status.

The Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule defines the federal government regulatory control over virtually any waters and many land areas that only temporarily hold water.

“We need a Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) definition that respects private property rights, like we put in place with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) under the Trump administration,” said Sen. John Hoeven. “At this point, the Biden administration has moved to repeal the NWPR and reinstate the pre-2015 WOTUS definition, which creates uncertainty for a range of industries, including agriculture, energy and construction, among others.

“At the same time, the administration is clearly working toward a new WOTUS definition that will expand the scope of waters regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and Army Corps well beyond what Congress intended and authorized under the Clean Water Act. The Obama-era WOTUS rule was wrong for North Dakota and our nation, and we cannot afford a similar overreach from the Biden administration.

“Accordingly, I have repeatedly pressed EPA officials, including Administrator Michael Regan, to provide regulatory certainty and support a commonsense, state-led approach to regulation, rather than reviving unworkable, one-size-fits-all federal rules. I also introduced a Senate resolution to uphold the NWPR and recently joined my colleagues in urging the EPA and Army Corps to suspend their WOTUS rulemaking until the Supreme Court completes its consideration of Sackett v. EPA, a case that is expected to have major implications on the scope and enforcement of the Clean Water Act. It would be irresponsible for the Biden administration to proceed with a rulemaking that could be invalidated or significantly altered as early as this summer. Our efforts are all about making sure that private property rights are respected.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer said, “The current proposed rule was rolled out right before I hosted the EPA and U.S. Army Corps for their only in-person WOTUS listening session in Bismarck. North Dakotans were able to express their views about how the Obama Administration’s 2015 rule and the Biden proposal exceed the regulatory authority granted by the Clean Water Act. The current policy relies on an overly broad ‘significant nexus’ test, which will inevitably lead to federal bureaucrats expanding their jurisdiction over waters traditionally within the sole purview of states.

“The Supreme Court will be reviewing the definition of Waters of the U.S. in the next several months and I have urged the Biden Administration to pause its plan to write a new rule until the Court provides more guidance on which waters fall under federal jurisdiction. I applaud the State of North Dakota and affected stakeholders who have participated in the rulemaking process. We are all hoping for sound policy to stop the regulatory ping-pong.”

Both the American National Farm Bureau Federation (NFBF) and National Farmers Union (NFU) provided comments on WOTUS to the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

NFBF, in comments submitted to the EPA and Corps on Feb. 7, said the proposed changes to the Waters of the U.S. rule would reintroduce burdensome federal regulations for agriculture.

NFBF and several undersigned organizations recommended that the agencies withdraw the proposed rule.

In an announcement Feb. 8, NFU said its submitted comments on the EPA and Corp’s proposed rule to revise the definition of WOTUS under the Clean Water Act urged an inclusive rule-making process.

The organization stressed that ambiguity around the definition of WOTUS has presented “ongoing challenges for farmers and ranchers,” and urged the agencies to develop rules that offer more certainty and clarity to farmers as soon as possible. The organization also urged the agencies to consult with farmers and ranchers regularly and consider the concerns of all who will be regulated under updated and new Clean Water Act rules.


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