@EPA Launches New ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Website

Colorado River headwaters tributary in Rocky Mountain National Park photo via Greg Hobbs.

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

EPA is launching a new website (www.epa.gov/wotus-rule) today to provide the public with information about EPA’s review of the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) as set out in the 2015 “Clean Water Rule.” The site replaces the website developed for the 2015 rulemaking process.

“EPA is restoring states’ important role in the regulation of water by reviewing WOTUS,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “The president has directed us to review this regulation to address the concerns from farmers and local communities that it creates unnecessary burdens and inhibits economic growth. This website aims to provide the public with information about our actions to meet the president’s directive.”

In the spirit of transparency, the site will provide the public with relevant information explaining the Agency’s actions, along with the Department of the Army and the Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies), to review the WOTUS rule, including how the agencies are working with our local, state and tribal partners, to examine our role in the regulation of water under the Clean Water Act. All the pages, information and documentation from the Clean Water Rule site will remain available in the EPA archived site, archive.epa.gov.

EPA is initiating consultation and coordination with stakeholders and the public as the agencies implement the February 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.”

The February Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation’s navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution. It also directs the agencies to review the existing Clean Water Rule (promulgated in 2015) for consistency with these priorities and to publish for notice and comment a proposed rule rescinding or revising the rule, as appropriate and consistent with the law. Further, the Order directs the agencies to consider interpreting the term “navigable waters,” as defined in the Clean Water Act at 33 U.S.C. 1362(7), in a manner consistent with the opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia in Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006). “Waters of the United States” are those waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act.

To meet these objectives, the agencies intend to follow an expeditious, two-step process that will provide certainty across the country: 1) an initial rulemaking to rescind the 2015 rule and recodify the regulatory definition that had been in place for decades and is currently being used in light of a nationwide stay of the 2015 rule, and thus maintains the status quo; and 2) a rulemaking to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” consistent with direction in the February 28, 2017 E.O.

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