Does the EPA’s New WOTUS Rule Go Too Far or Not Far Enough?

Industries across the nation are in an uproar over the new WOTUS rule, claiming the EPA is overreaching their power by making the coverage provided by it too widespread.

Industries and farmers across the nation, as well as 29 of the 50 states filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their work in publishing the “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS rule On June 29. Lawsuits against the EPA were on the grounds that the EPA went too far in implementing new rules that would be potentially crippling for the nation’s industry and agriculture.

Ironically, the EPA is now under fire for just the opposite–a coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the agency yesterday, this time for not going far enough.


The EPA’s new WOTUS rule adds much more range to the kinds of bodies of water protected by the Clean Water Act. Whereas the Clean Water Act already covered lakes, rivers, and year-round wetlands, it was not clear as to whether bodies of water that only appear during certain seasons, such as streams that dry up during select parts of the year. By adding coverage and protection to these seasonal bodies of water, the newly-defined WOTUS rule would allow the EPA to regulate any industry and farming taking place in or around these waters, under the authority of the Clean Water Act.


Industries across the nation are in an uproar over the new WOTUS rule, claiming the EPA is overreaching their power by making the coverage provided by it too widespread. House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R- Texas) was quick to criticize the vague language used by the EPA in order to grant more coverage, pointing to the word “drizzle” as a word used in the WOTUS rule in a section dealing with protection coverage.

The more the Clean Water Act covers, the more eligible the EPA is to perform inspections on industries built on or near these bodies of water, potentially complicating business across the nation. Heartland Institute’s H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D , commented, “Farmers, ranchers, developers, industry, and individual property owners would now be subject to the EPA’s arbitrary, unsound, and often incomprehensible regulatory system. It cannot be trusted.”

Farmers have also taken up issue with the new rule, as the Clean Water Act requires permits for developing into covered waters–an issue many would have to face with the implementation of the WOTUS rule–which covers many small and seasonal bodies of water that farmers commonly use for agricultural purposes.


A coalition of conservatory groups including the Waterkeeper Alliance, the Center for Food Safety, the Turtle Island Restoration Network, and the Center for Biological Diversity as well as others sued the EPA yesterday in a lawsuit filed for exactly opposite reasons. While farmers, industries, and state officials complain that the restrictions set by the WOTUS rule are too strong, the coalition claims them to be too weak, as they believe the exemptions included cater to the needs of industries too much, placing hundreds of endangered species at risk.

The coalition expressed their views in a recent statement: “Endangered salmon and sturgeon on both coasts, California red-legged frogs, and bog turtles are among the many species that depend on clean, unpolluted water and will be harmed by the exemptions created by this rule.” They have also expressed how the exemptions included by the EPA for industry and agriculture regulation will undoubtedly lead to increased pollution in bodies of water across the US.


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