EPA, Corps Propose Rule Over U.S. Waters

May 2013, Vol. 68 No. 5

On March 25, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule clarifying protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Also known as the Waters of the United States rulemaking, the proposed definitions of waters will apply to all Clean Water Act programs.

According to EPA, the rule is not designed to protect any new water types not historically covered under the Clean Water Act, and it is consistent with the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. “We are clarifying protection for the upstream waters that are absolutely vital to downstream communities,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

The proposed rule is based on a draft scientific assessment by EPA, which has been peer-reviewed by a Scientific Advisory Board. The final report has yet to be released. However, the rule intends to clarify that under the Clean Water Act, it:
• Reduces confusion about Clean Water Act protection;
• Clarifies types of waters covered under Clean Water Act;
• Saves businesses time and money;
• Provides more benefits to public than costs; and
• Helps states to protect their waters.
It also makes clear that the following is not covered:
• Does not protect any new types of waters;
• Does not broaden coverage of Clean Water Act;
• Does not regulate groundwater; and
• Does not expand jurisdiction over ditches.