U.S. President Donald Trump last week formally repealed a controversial “Waters of the U.S.” environmental regulation that dates back to the Obama era, after criticism that the rule imposed burdensome restrictions on housing development located near to water sources.
Chief among the WOTUS law’s critics was the National Association of Realtors, which argued that it overreached its statutory jurisdiction by allowing officials to regulate even the most isolated and minor of water features, such as manmade ditches and ephemeral streams.
“From the perspective of the real estate industry, this would have decreased the supply of affordable housing by increasing the regulatory burdens and costs of building new housing units,” said Kathleen M. McQuilkin, chair of NAR’s Land Use, Property Rights, and Environment Committee, after the repeal was announced. “Regulatory consistency is critical for real estate markets to function effectively.”
The repeal followed concerted action by the NAR, which argued for an “appropriate balance between regulatory clarity and transparency and the need for robust environmental protection of waters and wetlands.”
The NAR has long contended that dropping the WOTUS rule, which came into effect in 2015, would lead to greater certainty and consistency in the construction permit and development process while also protecting water quality and property rights.
“Clean water is essential to life. It creates the opportunity for a healthy environment, a growing economy, and allows us to live in vibrant neighborhoods across this country,” NAR President John Smaby said in a statement. “We commend White House efforts to repeal this rule and continue to push for market-based solutions that enhance the quality of our water resources while protecting private property rights.”
Last week’s repeal of the rule was the culmination of the Trump administration’s two-and-a half-year effort to strike down WOTUS.
Now, the NAR said it would focus on helping the Trump administration to come up with a replacement regulation for WOTUS.
“As proposed, the WOTUS replacement rule will provide clarity on what waters are under federal jurisdiction and preserves state authority over waters in their respective states,” McQuilkin said. “Most importantly, the proposed rule offers a common-sense approach that allows for economic development while protecting water quality.”