The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to delay the start date for the Obama administration's Waters of the U.S. rule for two years, giving the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers more time to reconsider a key definition that is at the heart of litigation opposing the regulation.
“This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the ‘waters of the United States,’” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Critics say the definition of what constitutes a waterway under the Obama-era rule is the reason why so many groups oppose the regulation.
The definition of a waterway under the rule includes everything from a simple drainage ditch to streams and rivers. That means many more areas would fall under EPA's enforcement jurisdiction and control, from farmers to individual homeowners to oil companies, say critics of the rule.
The 2015 rule's effective date was Aug. 28, 2015, but it was halted by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, while the Supreme Court decides which court, either a district court or an appeals court, has the proper jurisdiction to hear arguments on why the rule should be abolished.
The EPA appears to be seeking to continue the delay started in the courts, especially given that the initial stay may be coming to an end soon, based on whatever the Supreme Court decides.
President Trump made repealing the Waters of the U.S. rule a key part of his early agenda, signing a Feb. 28 executive order directing the EPA to conduct a review of the regulation.
Pruitt told the Washington Examiner this year that his goal is to have a new definition of the Waters of the U.S. completed in early 2018. He also is looking at repealing the regulation as a separate action.
Thursday's proposal to delay the rule is separate from the "two-step process" the EPA and Army Corps are pursuing to reconsider the 2015 rule. The comment period for reconsidering, or repealing, the rule closed in September. The EPA said the agencies are reviewing those comments.