On September 12, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army (the agencies) signed a final rule to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule (2015 Rule) and re-codify the regulatory text defining "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) that existed prior to the 2015 Rule. This action will, when effective, provide regulatory certainty as to the definition of “waters of the United States” in light of ongoing litigation over the 2015 Rule. This final rule will be implemented in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidance, and longstanding practice. This final rule follows 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. To meet these objectives, the agencies have followed a two-step rulemaking process. Today’s final rule is the first step of that process (Step 1 Final Rule). It was first proposed on July 27, 2017, with a supplemental proposal on June 29, 2018, and received 770,000 public comments. The Step 1 Final Rule provides regulatory certainty by removing the patchwork of regulations that existed across the country as a result of various judicial decision enjoining the 2015 Rule, and it reestablishes national consistency across the country by returning all jurisdictions to the longstanding regulatory framework that existed prior to the 2015 Rule, which is more familiar to the agencies, States, Tribes, local governments, regulated entities, and the public.
The Step 1 Final Rule provides the aforementioned regulatory certainty while the agencies engage in the second step of rulemaking to revise the definition of WOTUS. The second step, or the Step 2 Proposed Rule, was published in the Federal Register on February 14, 2019, and the public comment period closed on April 15, 2019. The agencies are currently reviewing over 600,000 public comments before taking final action.
More information regarding the WOTUS rulemaking can be found at EPA’s website: https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule. If you have specific questions regarding this Step 1 Final Rule, please contact a local Corps District office or EPA Regional office. Office information can be found at http://regulatory-ops.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/.
10 June 2019 - Proposed revisions to the National Wetland Plant List
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as part of an interagency effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service, announces the draft biennial update to the National Wetland Plant List (NWPL) for 2018 in the Federal Register.
The Corps encourages public input in the form of data, comments, literature references, or field experiences, to help clarify the status of the species reviewed for this update, as well as public input on the NWPL process. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed update or addition of wetland indicator status ratings for 20 plant species in select Corps wetland regions. These 20 reviewed species and their draft 2018 wetland ratings by region, as well as the FR notice, can be viewed at the NWPL homepage, http://wetland-plants.usace.army.mil/ under “2018 NWPL Update Information.” A link to provide general or species-specific comments is also available at this location. Users are encouraged to submit literature citations, herbaria records, experiential references, monitoring data, and other relevant information. Specific knowledge of, or studies related to, individual species are particularly helpful. Commenters should use their regional botanical and ecological expertise, field observations, reviews of the most recent indicator status information, appropriate botanical literature, floras, herbarium specimens with notation of habitat and associated species, habit data, relevant studies, and historic list information. Guessing ratings is inappropriate. All submitted comments and information will be compiled and sent to the National Panel for their consideration.
The Corps is also seeking comments on the NWPL update process. Detailed information on the update process, protocol, and technical issues can be found in the following documents (available on the NWPL Publications web page referenced above):
1) Lichvar, Robert W. and Minkin, Paul. Concepts and Procedures for Updating the National Wetland Plant List. Sept 2008. ERDC/CRREL TN-08-3
2) Lichvar, Robert W. and Gillrich, Jennifer J. Final Protocol for Assigning Wetland Indicator Status Ratings during National Wetland Plant List Update. Sept 2011. ERDC/CRREL TN-11-1
14 February 2019 - Special Public Notice - Clean Water Act Proposed Rule for a Revised Definition of the "Waters of the U.S."
7 January 2019 - EPA and Army Postpone Public Hearing on Proposed New "Waters of the United States" Definition
Due to the lapse in appropriations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), EPA and the Department of the Army (Army) have postponed the planned January 23 public hearing on the proposed new "Waters of the United States" definition until after appropriations have passed to fund the EPA. Publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register is also postponed. Information on the status of the public hearing will be posted on the EPA website at https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule/epa-and-army-postpone-public-hearing-proposed-new-waters-united-states-definition
11 December 2018 - EPA and Army Propose New "Waters of the United States" Definition
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army have proposed a new definition of "waters of the United States" that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act. The agencies' proposal is the second step in a two-step process to review and revise the definition of "waters of the United States" consistent with the February 2017 Presidential Executive Order entitled "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule." The agencies will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA and the Army will also hold an informational webcast on January 10, 2019, and will host a listening session on the proposed rule in Kansas City, KS, on January 23, 2019. More information including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice, the supporting analyses and fact sheets are available at: https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule/step-two-revise and https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule.