The Next Chapter of WOTUS

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EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a rule in the Federal Register on Tuesday, initiating updates to the pre-2015 regulatory definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. 

A June 2021 statement made by the Biden administration detailed plans to repeal the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) promulgated under WOTUS in 2020. New regulations defining federally protected waterways under the Clean Water Act were then announced in November by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. 

This transition was made possible in August, following a federal judge in Arizona vacating the Trump-era NWPR due to the rule violating the WOTUS objective “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”

EPA Administrator Michael Regan says the proposed transition was created to bring clarity and consistency to WOTUS: “Through our engagement with stakeholders across the country, we’ve heard overwhelming calls for a durable definition of WOTUS that protects the environment and that is grounded in the experience of those who steward our waters.”

Historically, the original 1986 regulations have been implemented by every administration since their inception 35 years ago, apart from the Reagan and Trump administrations.

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are seeking public comment on the proposed rule, to be submitted here.


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