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On the afternoon of Sept. 12, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Department of the Army Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James announced the final repeal of the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

“Today, Administrator Wheeler and I signed a final rule that repeals the 2015 Rule and restores the previous regulatory regime exactly how it existed prior to finalization of the 2015 Rule,” said James in the official announcement.

“Before this final rule, a patchwork of regulations existed across the country as a result of various judicial decisions enjoining the 2015 Rule. This final rule reestablishes national consistency across the country by returning all jurisdictions to the longstanding regulatory framework that existed prior to the 2015 Rule, which is more familiar to the agencies, States, Tribes, local governments, regulated entities, and the public while the agencies engage in a second rulemaking to revise the definition of ‘waters of the United States.’”

The 2015 WOTUS rule has been through a long slog of various court trials, with a Georgia court recently remanding the rule back to the EPA.

2015 WOTUS ruled unlawful

The EPA has been working on a new WOTUS to replace the 2015 rule. That process has been long and slow-moving.

“The Christmas present of a lifetime”

Agricultural leaders and groups were quick to hail the move.

"Repealing the WOTUS rule is a major win for American agriculture," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in the USDA's official response.

"The extreme overreach from the past Administration had government taking the productivity of the land people had worked for years."

"Cattle producers are the nation’s original environmental stewards—we work hard to ensure that our natural resources remain pristine and to implement conservation practices to protect our water resources," National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston said in response to the repeal.

"The 2015 WOTUS Rule was an illegal effort by the federal government to assert control over both land and water, significantly impacting our ability to implement vital conservation practices."

Look for more coverage on the history of the 2015 WOTUS rule online and in the Sept. 23 paper.

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