EPA repeals Obama-era water regulation

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced the repeal of the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule that extended federal authority and protections to streams and wetlands.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said repealing the rule was “at the top of the list” of items the administration wanted to roll back, because it was an “egregious power grab.”

Wheeler made the announcement at the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group in Washington, DC, that has lobbied against the Obama rule and whose legal arm previously sued to block it.

Jay Timmons, the CEO of NAM, introduced Wheeler and said the rollback is a “big accomplishment for manufacturers.”

The 2015 regulation, commonly known as WOTUS, defined what bodies of water are protected under the federal Clean Water Act but was a favorite punching bag of Republicans, who ridicule it as government overreach. Democrats defended it as necessary to ensure waterways remained pollution-free.

The next step for the Trump administration is finalizing its proposal for a replacement regulation.

Environmental groups are panning the move and promising further legal challenges.

“The Trump administration’s wild-eyed attempts to reward polluters,” the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Jon Devine said, “knows no bounds, so it is repealing these important protections without regard for the law or sound science.”