The Clean Water Rule, which passed in 2015, was meant to give federal officials more authority over small waterways and wetlands to prevent pollution. President Donald Trump has made repealing the rule, along with dozens of other environmental regulations put in place by President Barack Obama, a top priority for his administration. Trump issued an executive order last year directing the EPA to repeal the rule, but even before that, legal challenges from business groups and Republicans kept the rule from being implemented.
In early January, however, the United States Supreme Court reversed a lower court's decision to halt the rule's implementation. Pruitt said on Wednesday that the EPA will use the next two years to develop a replacement for the Clean Water Rule.
"Today, EPA is taking action to reduce confusion and provide certainty to America's farmers and ranchers," Pruitt said in a statement. "The 2015 ... rule developed by the Obama administration will not be applicable for the next two years, while we work through the process of providing long-term regulatory certainty across all 50 states about what waters are subject to federal regulation."
But environmental groups have criticized the announcement as an attempt to further delay necessary protections for the U.S.'s waterways.