Regan says new WOTUS will maintain pre-2015 exemptions for agriculture
Exemptions will remain in place for farming and ranching activities as part of EPA’s rewrite of its waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) definition, EPA Administrator Michael Regan told the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture at a virtual meeting. “Our forthcoming rule will propose retaining that pre-2015 exclusion,” Regan said. He said normal farming, silviculture and ranching activities defined by Section 44 of the Clean Water Act that could take place in a jurisdictional waterway or wetlands won’t require a permit, adding that includes “common activities like plowing, seeding and minor drainage as well as activities like construction and maintenance of irrigation ditches.”
EPA initially announced plans to revise WOTUS and restore protections in place prior to the 2015 WOTUS implementation in June, putting many in the ag sector on edge. Regan has emphasized that EPA is aiming for clarity, for certainty and for a durable rule. Today, he said EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will neither be reinstating the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule nor the 2015 Obama-era Clean Water Rule. Rather, the agencies are working on a proposal reflecting pre-2015 regulations updated with Supreme Court Decisions.
Regan said EPA hopes release that foundational proposal sometime in November. A second rule building on that foundational one should come during the winter, Regan said.