Morrisey hails repeal of EPA's WOTUS rule

By Chris Dickerson | Jun 27, 2017

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and 20 other state attorneys general are praising the repeal of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States Rule.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a notice June 27 to withdraw the Obama-era rule.

“The Attorneys General of the States of West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky applaud the action of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) today in beginning to withdraw the unlawful waters of the United States rule (“WOTUS Rule”)," the AGs wrote in a statement. "We fully support the proposed rule signed by EPA Administrator Pruitt today as a significant step in the direction of withdrawing the unlawful WOTUS Rule."

The coalition of AGs filed its letter June 19 as part of the EPA’s ongoing review of the rule. The attorneys general outlined regulatory overreach present in the existing rule and offered suggestions to better respect the authority of states going forward.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey  

“The WOTUS Rule is unlawful … and significantly impinges upon the States’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources within their borders,” the letter states. “We write to suggest how the [EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] can write a rule that respects Congress’s instruction.”

The letter requested a concrete definition of the term “waters of the United States.” In doing so, it suggests the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers should preserve the states’ role in protecting water resources, especially those within the border of individual states. 

The attorneys general also suggested any final definition should adopt a framework consistent with Supreme Court precedent. That includes that federal agencies can only assert authority over permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographic features.

The letter expressed that rather than claiming jurisdiction over vast amounts of water and land, EPA and Army Corps of Engineers should consider the active role each state already plays in safeguarding its waterways.

“The WOTUS Rule asserts sweeping federal authority over usually dry channels, roadside ditches, and isolated streams," the AGs said in their June 27 statement. "The Rule also asserts federal authority over land covered by water only once every one hundred years. The rule’s broad assertion of authority unlawfully impinges on the States’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources. The WOTUS Rule is unlawful under the Clean Water Act, U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and the U.S. Constitution."

The Obama-era regulation, if implemented, would have taken jurisdiction over natural resources from states and put it in the hands of federal agencies. This included almost any body of water, such as isolated streams, hundred-year floodplains and roadside ditches.

Morrisey led several states that won a nationwide stay that blocked enforcement of the rule and proved crucial in providing time for a new administration to reconsider the rule.

“Our states won a nationwide stay blocking enforcement of the rule and allowing the new administration time to work on withdrawing the rule," the AGs said on June 27. "We look forward to EPA’s final action withdrawing the WOTUS Rule and providing relief for our States and their citizens.”

West Virginia's Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt also praised the EPA's move..

"This is a great day for our West Virginia farmers," he said in a statement. "WOTUS created unnecessary and burdensome regulations that had dire effects on farm operations throughout the Mountain State.

"It was ridiculous to consider ditches, ponds and streams as navigable waterways as the previous rules did. WOTUS rules were nothing but overreach by the federal government. I applaud the EPA's decision to reverse its course."

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Virginia Attorney General's Office West Virginia Department of Agriculture

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