U.S. EPA delays water rule for two years

FILE PHOTO: Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, gestures as he testifies to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee oversight hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday that the 2015 Waters of the United States rule will not be applicable for two years while it works to repeal and replace the Obama-era clean water regulation.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the delay of the 2015 rule that defined which small waterways can be governed by federal regulations will “reduce confusion and provide certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers.”

The agency is currently reviewing public comments for its 2017 proposal to rescind the rule. It is also working with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a potential replacement rule that “would revise the definition of waters of the United States.”

The water rule has been bogged down in legal challenges. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay of the rule, halting its planned August 2015 implementation.

But last week the Supreme Court determined that federal circuit courts do not have original jurisdiction to review these challenges and they should be dealt with by district courts.

“Given uncertainty about litigation in multiple district courts over the 2015 Rule, this action provides much needed certainty and clarity to the regulated community during the ongoing regulatory process,” the EPA said in a press release Wednesday.

Pruitt told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that he aims to finalize a revamped rule by year-end.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Cynthia Osterman