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Biden Administration Seeks to Rewrite Trump Clean Water Rule

Washington Post writer Dino Grandoni reported this week that, “The Biden administration is set to toss out President Donald Trump’s efforts to scale back the number of streams, marshes and other wetlands that fall under federal protection, kicking off a legal and regulatory scuffle over the fate of wetlands and waterways around the country, from the arid West to the swampy South.

Michael Regan, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said his team determined that the Trump administration’s rollback is ‘leading to significant environmental degradation.’ The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers will craft a new set of protections for waterways that provide habitats for wildlife and safe drinking water for millions of Americans, according to a joint statement.
Reuters News reported this week that, “President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday announced its intent to protect more U.S. waterways through environmental regulations, reversing a Trump-era rollback that had been urged by farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.”

“With the announcement, the Biden administration is wading into a decades-long battle over how far federal officials can go to stop contaminants from entering small streams and other wetlands.”

The Post article noted that, “In 2015, the Obama administration expanded federal authority to stop or curtail development that could harm a variety of wetlands, streams and ditches that feed into larger bodies of water protected under the Clean Water Act.

“Heeding the call of home developers, oil drillers and growers who saw the restrictions as detrimental to their livelihoods, the Trump administration rolled back those Obama-era pollution controls.”

‘Now, Regan says he’s trying to strike the delicate balance between conservation and development that both the Trump and Obama administrations failed to reach,’ the Post article said.

New York Times writer Lisa Friedman reported this week that, “Tuesday’s announcement does not start the process of revising the regulation. That will come when the E.P.A. officially promulgates a proposed new rule, possibly later this year. Wednesday’s action was a legal move in which the Department of Justice and Department of the Army formally requested repeal of the Trump-era rule.”

The Times article indicated that, “Environmental groups and Democrats in Congress praised the announcement and pressed the administration to work quickly to unravel the Trump policy. ‘Every day the ‘Dirty Water’ rule remains in effect, it causes irreparable harm to our health, to our environment, and to our economies,’ Representative Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon and chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a statement.

“However, some legal experts said that by moving to repeal Mr. Trump’s measure and start over again — rather than building on the previous rule — the Biden administration might only prolong the back and forth that has gone on for years. ‘It could perpetuate this place we are in, in which each administration throws out what the last administration does, and that is not good for anyone who is interested in this issue,’ said Kevin Minoli who served as a lawyer at the Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.”

DTN writer Todd Neeley reported this week that, “The EPA said a new regulatory effort would be guided by a number of considerations.

“That includes protecting water resources and communities consistent with the Clean Water Act, considering the latest science and the effects of climate change on waters, and emphasizing a rule with a ‘practical-implementation approach’ for states and tribes.

“The EPA said the new rule would reflect the ‘experience of and input received from landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, tribes, local governments, community organizations, environmental groups, and disadvantaged communities with environmental justice concerns.'”

And Annie Snider reported this week at Politico that, “The issue of which streams and wetlands are subject to federal regulation has been the source of intense debate virtually since the Clean Water Act was passed, and has been a legal and political quagmire for the past decade and a half after the Supreme Court issued a pair of muddled opinions that created enormous confusion on the ground.

“Over the past two presidential administrations, the country has ping-ponged back and forth among three different regulatory definitions, sometimes with different rules in effect in different parts of the country.”

The Politico article reminded readers that, “Regan, who worked closely with farmers and ranchers in his previous job as head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, won broad support from agricultural groups when Biden tapped him to helm EPA.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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