On February 28, President Trump honored a campaign promise and signed an executive order directing EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin the process of rescinding or revising the controversial “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. (You can read his full remarks here) The executive order provides EPA and the Corps direction to rework the rule that dramatically extended the areas in which landowners and local governments are required to get permits, blatantly usurping state and local regulatory authority. Two courts have already ruled that there is a likelihood that the rule is illegal and have issued a temporary halt.

As you may recall, in March 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a proposal to revise the rules that regulate the two agencies’ authority as described under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The rule greatly their collective regulatory authority to dictate, regulate and limit land-use decisions and expanded jurisdiction over floodplains, tributaries and ditches. In other words, field operatives from either agency will have much more power to tell landowners what they can and can’t do on their land.

As you can imagine, the amount of feedback received on the rule was staggering with nearly one million formal comments being filed. Letters of concern were sent in from a range of groups, from local entities like the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County and Business Alliance for a Sound Economy (BASE) but also national trade groups and even the federal Small Business Administration.

Congress heard loud and clear about the potential impacts on landowners, local governments and agricultural interests. The US House passed a bill to stop the rulemaking in its tracks, but the US Senate failed to follow suit. The rules went into effect in 2015. Legal action was undertaken, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals formally stopped the rule.

In February of 2015, Congressman David Rouzer released a joint statement with the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, the North Carolina Association of REALTORS®, and the Business Alliance for a Sound Economy  (BASE) denouncing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule change to the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

“I am greatly concerned about the impact this rule change would have on Southeastern North Carolina,” said Congressman David Rouzer.  “The new rule is so vague that it could require our farmers and property owners to get permission from a federal bureaucrat before acting on their own property.  In talking with small business owners, farmers, realtors, and homebuilders, it’s clear the rule change could negatively affect every industry.”

“At the local, state, and federal level, this is an issue that has united businesses, local governments, and citizens,” said Tyler Newman, with BASE.  “Simply, the rules would hamper future investment across wide areas of North Carolina.  We appreciate Congressman Rouzer’s continued leadership on this issue.”

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