South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s move on Tuesday to rescind the Clean Water Rule and go back to the regulations that were in place before 2015. This proposed rule follows a Presidential Executive Order that President Donald Trump signed February 28, 2017.
On June 30, 2015, South Carolina joined eight states in filing a lawsuit against the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers over the Clean Water Rule, which would have greatly expanded the phrase “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS.
“The EPA’s regulatory filing has a laudable intent of protecting small streams and wetlands from the risk of pollution," said Wilson, calling the decision a victory for common sense. "But in fact, it does so through extraordinary means by greatly expanding the already broad definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ This expansion would bring many roadside ditches, small ponds on family farms, water features on golf courses, and storm water systems under onerous federal regulation. Simply put, our argument is that drainage ditches aren’t navigable waters."
Wilson said one of his "biggest concerns with this rule is that un-elected bureaucrats at the EPA and the Corps of Engineers have virtually no restrictions on what they can determine to be ‘navigable waters.’"
"This has led numerous South Carolinians to share their concerns about this new rule with me," Wilson said. "They have reason to fear that a ditch which hasn’t held standing water in years could now meet the new criteria and fall under federal regulation.”
Wilson said that the rule proposed in 2015 would have required South Carolina farmers, ranchers and other landowners to get permit for basic land uses, like digging a ditch or even building a fence.
Foresters were also opposed to the change, concerned that a ditch running along a forest road that connects to a larger public highway ditch that discharges into a wetland or waterway would qualify the entire ditch system as “navigable water.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District had blocked the 2015 rule, so the EPA’s action, when final, will not change current practice but will re-codify the rules in place before 2015.
"We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses,” said Administrator Scott Pruitt. "This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine 'waters of the U.S.' and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public."