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Ernst Applauds Rollback of Obama Administration’s Overreaching WOTUS Rule

“A tire track that collects rain water won’t be regulated by the federal government.”

WASHINGTON – Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed rule, released today, to define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).  This rule replaces the Obama Administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule, which gave the federal government authority to regulate water on 97 percent of the land in Iowa.

“For years, people impacted by Obama’s WOTUS rule have been in a state of regulatory limbo. The proposed WOTUS rule, released by the Trump EPA, provides much needed predictability and certainty by establishing clear and reasonable definitions of what qualifies as a ‘WOTUS.’  Iowa’s farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that, going forward, a tire track that collects rain water won’t be regulated by the federal government.  I want to thank the EPA, under Acting Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, for ensuring this WOTUS replacement rule was released quickly, and properly, to provide much-needed regulatory certainty to the people of Iowa.”


In 2015, the Obama Administration finalized a rule that expanded the definition of WOTUS, creating confusion and burdensome red tape for the agriculture industry and many others. This harmful rule was developed while former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack served as President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture.

Understanding the problems the expanded definition of WOTUS posed for Iowa’s farmers and ranchers, Senator Ernst led the fight against this federal overreach in Congress.  In September 2015, she introduced S.J.Res.22, a joint resolution of disapproval that would have nullified the Obama Administration’s rule. After passing both the House and Senate, S.J.Res.22 was vetoed by President Obama. 

Soon after taking office in 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing EPA and Army Corps to develop a replacement for the Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule. 

New EPA WOTUS rule highlights:

  • Outlines six clearly defined categories of waters that will be considered “waters of the United States”
  • Clarifies that most ditches should not be subject to federal control
  • Clarifies that groundwater, prior converted cropland and storm water control systems in upland areas are not subject to federal jurisdiction
  • Excludes ephemeral features that only contain water during rainfall from federal regulation
  • Restores the balance under the Clean Water Act between waters subject to federal jurisdiction and those subject to state/tribal jurisdiction