Navigable Waters Protection Rule Changes Again

A federal judge struck down the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). The order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona brings a swift end to the regulation, which was modified under the Trump administration.

Trump’s EPA reversed the changes made by the previous administration, removing permit requirements for things like man-made channels, groundwater and stream beds that only fill following rains.

Recently, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers had successfully pressed courts in other parts of the country to allow the Biden administration to come up with a new definition of waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, without immediately scrapping the Trump rule.

But Judge Rosemary Márquez of the Arizona district court said the Trump rule, which gutted the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Water Rule, was too flawed to keep in place.

“The seriousness of the Agencies’ errors in enacting the NWPR, the likelihood that the Agencies will alter the NWPR’s definition of ‘waters of the United States,’ and the possibility of serious environmental harm if the NWPR remains in place upon remand, all weigh in favor of remand with vacatur,” wrote Márquez.

The Biden administration said that it found the Trump-era rule caused a 25 percentage point drop in decisions that waters should get Clean Water Act protections.

Over the course of the last five years, businesses have had to deal with three separate standards for determining whether permits are needed, with one of them being in force two different times. And within the next two years, a new rule will be formulated and put on hold while court cases are filed.

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