EPN Comments on Proposed Repeal of the Rule Defining the Waters of the United States

rocky stream with trees

On July 12, 2018, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a proposal to repeal the 2015 Rule defining Waters of the United States (WOTUS). WOTUS provided clarification after years of contesting and litigation over what water bodies were covered by the Clean Water Act (CWA). An extensive review of the proposal by various EPN members with expertise in science and law found this proposal would be reversing long-standing interpretations of the purpose, intent, and administration of the CWA.

  • EPA and the Corps are attempting to reinterpret the CWA, its legislative history and the applicable Supreme Court cases differently than any prior administration, without proper legal support or foundation.
  • The proposal’s focus on states’ rights misses the basic and critical point that the nation’s waterways are largely interconnected across state lines and, therefore, require a national solution. The 2015 rule buffers its effect on states’ rights by limiting CWA jurisdiction to only those waters that affect downstream navigable waters.
  • The agencies go to great lengths without any credible legal or scientific support to discredit several pertinent and well-researched reports presenting important analysis on how certain types of waterways can significantly affect downstream waters. These studies are critical. It is irresponsible to discredit them.
  • The agencies state that the 2015 rule must be changed because it does not achieve its goal of regulatory certainty. Yet, the rule has essentially never gone into effect nor has it been tested in the real world. It was only in effect in some parts of the country for a few weeks before it was stayed by the courts.

EPN supports the legitimacy of a new administration reconsidering environmental policy directions, but the administration should not do so without developing a proper legal justification and record with full public input. They have failed to do so, and therefore, repealing a rule that clarified a crucial definition and promoted environmental responsibility among states would be misguided and irresponsible.

Read a summary of comments: EPN WOTUS Comments Summary

Read the full comments: EPN WOTUS Comments