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What’s Next for WOTUS?

The future of the Biden administration’s too-stringent rule governing the “waters of the United States” remains unclear following the president’s veto of legislation that would have overturned it, according to E&E News’ GREENWIRE (subscription).

What’s going on: “Republican lawmakers pushed almost immediately for a veto override targeting the…WOTUS rule on Thursday in the hours after President Joe Biden nixed a resolution that would roll it back.”

  • A Republican-led measure in the House and Senate using the Congressional Review Act to block the overly restrictive WOTUS rule passed both chambers of Congress last month.
  • House Republicans say they will push for a veto override.

Why it’s important: The Biden administration’s version of the rule replaced NAM-backed regulations from the previous administration.

The background: The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision this year on Sackett v. EPA, a case brought by an Idaho couple who have been blocked from building a house on their land for more than 15 years after the Environmental Protection Agency said part of the property was a wetlands.  

  • The NAM and many GOP congressional leaders previously urged the administration to await the ruling on this case before releasing a final WOTUS rule.
  • Issuing a new rule prior to a Sackett v. EPA decision only confuses things for manufacturers, making hiring and investment more difficult, NAM Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse said in December, following the release of the new rule.

What’s next: While “the fate of WOTUS remains murky as ever,” according to the article, several states have frozen the new rule.

  • “Texas and Idaho secured an injunction on March 20, the day WOTUS took effect in the rest of the country. Those states are now subject to 1986 regulations, while the other 48 states are operating under the Biden administration’s definition—a split that has left the regulated community baffled as to how to operate nationally.”

The NAM says: “By vetoing the bipartisan Congressional Review Act on the WOTUS rule, the president removed an item that manufacturers greatly desire: regulatory certainty,” said NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Brandon Farris.

  • “While the country awaits the decision in Sackett v. EPA, numerous investments in much-needed energy and infrastructure projects may be put on hold due to confusion over the new definition and potential added costs of compliance.”
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