Federal Spotlight: Waters of the U.S. rule finalized

May 28, 2015

On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the finalized “Clean Water Rule”. The rule more precisely defines waters protected under the clean water act, identifies how far safeguards extend to nearby waters, addresses ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like a stream (which does not include ditches that only flow when it rains), maintains waters within municipal separate storm sewer systems, and reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters. Last fall, ABI joined several stakeholders in a roundtable and expressed concerns of businesses and manufacturers about the initial Waters of the U.S. rule proposal, known as WOTUS.

During a press conference call Wednesday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule is necessary because 60 percent of streams today do not flow year-round and recent confusion over jurisdiction could threaten the EPA’s ability to protect these streams. McCarthy said she received more than one million comments and many changes to the finalized rule are based on these comments. McCarthy said there are no new permitting requirements and all previous exemptions will remain in place.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey released the following comment in response to the finalized rule: “The final rule is nearly 300 pages and will take some time to thoroughly analyze and understand its full impact. Given the serious problems raised in the initial proposal, I do think it would have been wise for EPA to hold another comment period that would give all interested stakeholders a chance to closely review the rule and make thoughtful comments. It is very important that this be done correctly. We want to encourage farmers to do additional conservation work on their farms, not stand in their way.  The uncertainty created by this entire rulemaking process has created unnecessary challenges and I hope this final rule doesn’t further exacerbate those issues.”

The rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which Administrator McCarthy indicated could be in a couple of weeks. Documents, including a PDF of the final rule, are available here.

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EPA Issues Final Rule Protecting drinking water, streams