On June 7, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army (the agencies) announced their intent to establish a new definition of "waters of the United States" or "WOTUS."
According to EPA's Office of Water, the agencies are seeking to better protect vital water resources that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth. In addition, the Department of Justice is filing a motion requesting remand of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) in the District Court of Massachusetts today.
Executive Order 13990 on "Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis" directs EPA and the Army to review and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, take action to revise or replace the NWPR defining "waters of the United States." EPA and the Army have completed this review and determined that they have concerns with the NWPR, including that it is causing significant, ongoing, and irreversible environmental damage.
The agencies' new regulatory effort will be guided by:
- Protecting water resources and our communities consistent with the Clean Water Act
- Considering the latest science and the effects of climate change on our waters
- Emphasizing effective implementation
- Reflecting the experience of landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, tribes, environmental organizations, and community organizations
The agencies intend to pursue a new rulemaking process to replace the NWPR. In the interim, the NWPR is still in effect across the country. Further details of the agencies' plans, including opportunity for public participation, will be conveyed in a forthcoming action later this summer.