Hoeven: EPA Releases Final WOTUS Replacement

Senator Urged Administration to Ensure New Rule Respects State Authority over Non-Navigable Waters within Their Borders

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today issued the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final proposal, called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), to replace the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. This follows the administration’s repeal of the 2015 WOTUS rule last year, which removed the patchwork of regulations in place due to litigation against the regulation. 

Hoeven previously worked to defund WOTUS in 2016 and 2017 and prevent its implementation. The senator has also been urging the administration, including at a roundtable in Bismarck with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, to ensure that any replacement for WOTUS would recognize the primary role of states in managing water resources within their borders and not impose unnecessary costs on farmers, ranchers and energy producers, among others.

“The Obama-era WOTUS rule was duplicative of state and local efforts, violated private property rights and would’ve imposed significant costs on a wide range of industries, like agriculture, energy production and construction,” said Hoeven. “That’s why we worked to prevent the 2015 rule’s implementation and supported the administration’s efforts to repeal it. We appreciate their continued efforts to provide certainty under the new NWPR rule, which seeks to cover only traditional navigable waters and encourage collaboration with states, tribes and localities, rather than override their authority. We will continue working to ensure the new rule achieves these important goals.”

The 2015 WOTUS rule included broad new definitions of the scope of “waters of the United States” that fell under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. This expansion of the EPA’s authority went beyond what Congress established under the CWA. It violated private property rights and threatened significant economic impacts for property owners who would’ve faced new federal permitting requirements, compliance costs and threats of fines.

According to the EPA, the NWPR maintains federal authority to protect the quality of navigable waters and the core tributaries that flow into them. At the same time, the rule makes clear those waters which are not covered by federal authority and will continue to be protected under state, tribal and local regulations, including:

  • Features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall.
  • Groundwater.
  • Many ditches, including most roadside and farm ditches. 
  • Farm and stock watering ponds.
  • Waste treatment systems.
  • Prior converted cropland.