Today, 30 July 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army (the agencies) announced upcoming community engagement on the agencies’ plans to write a new definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. The announcement is available at https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-and-army-announce-next-steps-crafting-enduring-definition-waters-united-states .
EPA and Army have stated that it is their intent to provide certainty by developing a reasonable, effective, and durable definition of WOTUS that protects public health, the environment, and downstream communities and economies, while supporting agriculture and other industries.
The announcement marks a key step in the agencies’ efforts to write a new rule to define WOTUS. EPA and Army have stated that it is their intent to conduct this rulemaking by following science and the law, emphasizing implementation, and working collaboratively with states, tribes, local governments, and stakeholders.
The engagement opportunities include an opportunity for stakeholders and the public to provide written recommendations and a series of public meetings in August to hear perspectives on the agencies’ rulemaking process. In addition, the agencies are initiating Federalism and Tribal consultations for the foundational rule that 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 agencies also intend to host a series of dialogues with state and Tribal co-regulators this fall to discuss both anticipated rulemakings.
Additionally, the agencies plan to convene regionally focused and inclusive roundtables during the upcoming fall and winter. These roundtables will allow a full spectrum of stakeholders to engage and discuss their experience with definitions of WOTUS—including what has worked and what has not. The roundtables will provide opportunities to discuss geographic similarities and differences, particular water resources that are characteristic of or unique to each region, and site-specific feedback about implementation.
The agencies are still developing the approach to regional roundtables and have expressed the understanding that it is crucial to involve stakeholders from across the country. The agencies have stated an eagerness to hear from a wide spectrum of participants during their upcoming public meetings and have invited us to share this public meeting opportunity widely outside the Agency.
EPA and Army are updating their WOTUS website to include registration links for the August public meetings and the Federal Register Notice and will link to the press release. For more information about the agencies’ outreach and engagement plans, and more generally on the definition of “waters of the United States,” visit https://www.epa.gov/wotus .