The Biden administration plans to reverse yet another Trump environmental policy. Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency will once again redefine the Waters of the United States rule, known as WOTUS.
The Trump revision of the rule streamlined the definition of WOTUS, after Barack Obama gave the EPA extraordinary control over everything from lakes to puddles.
Trump gave property owners more protection from the federal overreach by trimming back the jurisdiction of the EPA and Army Corps.
Now, the Biden Administration is going to put together a new WOTUS definition, something that Biden promised to do before he was elected. In fact, on his first day in office, he ordered the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the WOTUS rule.
“A broadened definition [of WOTUS] will require more projects to get federal permits. This will increase project expenses, timelines, and uncertainty without a corresponding environmental benefit,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy wrote in a statement.
Alaska has nearly half the water in the nation, with more than three million lakes, 365,000 miles of rivers, and countless unnavigable glaciers, permafrost, and wetlands.
“For the Biden administration and the EPA to redefine waters is nothing more than a naked power grab for federal rule from Washington, D.C. Make no mistake, the ability of Alaskans to harvest timber, develop oil and gas, mine the critical minerals needed for national security, and the ability to farm and hunt are in danger with this announcement. It would be less insulting to the State of Alaska if the Biden EPA came out transparently with its intent to turn our land into a national park under the management of rangers,” Dunleavy said.
The definition and scope of WOTUS has been litigated for years and has created uncertainty for the business community and home builders. The 2015 WOTUS rule was universally criticized by agriculture, manufacturing, and real estate development sectors of the economy. It was repealed in 2019.
Alaska has been supportive of a waters rule that understands and exempts the unique conditions of permafrost and wetlands in Alaska. Approximately 63 percent of Alaska is covered by permafrost and in many places wetlands overlays permafrost.
In 2015, Sen. Dan Sullivan worked to fix the 2015 Obama-era WOTUS rule, but was not successful. Watch him speak about it on the floor of the Senate: