WASHINGTON, DC – The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army outlined plans for revising the definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
Specifically, the agencies plan to follow a two-pronged approach. A forthcoming foundational rule would restore the regulations defining WOTUS that were in place until 2015, with updates consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions.
A separate, second rulemaking process would establish an updated and durable definition of WOTUS, the agencies explained.
The agencies have announced plans to hold a series of virtual public hearings, scheduled for Aug. 18, 23, 25, 26 and 31. Also, EPA said it is planning a series of 10 “regionally focused” roundtables this fall and winter, expected to be announced at a later date.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a press statement the agencies are “committed to crafting an enduring” definition.
“Uncertainty over the definition of WOTUS has harmed our waters and the stakeholders and communities that rely on them,” he said.
EPA said the agencies will revise the WOTUS definition through two rulemakings.
“A forthcoming foundational rule would restore the regulations defining WOTUS that were in place for decades until 2015, with updates to be consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions,” the EPA said.
“A separate, second rulemaking process would refine this regulatory foundation and establish an updated and durable definition of ‘waters of the United States.’ A durable definition of WOTUS is essential to ensuring clean and safe water in all communities — supporting human health, animal habitat, agriculture, watersheds, flood management, local economies and industry.”
The EPA said the new rule would reflect the “experience of and input received from landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, tribes, local governments, community organizations, environmental groups, and disadvantaged communities with environmental justice concerns.”
Under the Obama administration in 2015, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a new WOTUS rule that gave EPA broad jurisdiction over U.S. waters to include upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams.
The WOTUS rule was immediately challenged in court and subject to several preliminary injunctions. The Trump administration repealed the 2015 rule in 2019 and in June 2020, replaced it with the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR).
Montana Senator Steve Daines was one of the Senators leading the introduction of legislation to codify the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Act that would maintain the Trump Administration’s NWPR.
“Montana farmers and ranchers are longstanding stewards of our lands and waterways—they shouldn’t be burdened with more bureaucratic red-tape that would allow the federal government to regulate every pond, puddle, or ditch,” Daines said.