The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army are moving forward with revising the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). Updating the WOTUS definition will be a two-step process. The agencies have indicated that the plan is to revert back to regulations that define WOTUS that were in place prior to 2015. Relevant Supreme Court decisions that have been made since then would also be incorporated. The second rulemaking process will be to establish what EPA is referring to as a “durable definition” of WOTUS.
“We are committed to crafting an enduring definition of WOTUS by listening to all sides so that we can build on an inclusive foundation,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a press release. “Uncertainty over the definition of WOTUS has harmed our waters and the stakeholders and communities that rely on them. I look forward to engaging all parties as we move forward to provide the certainty that’s needed to protect our precious natural water resources.”
Several lawmakers and agricultural groups have expressed concern for another revision of the WOTUS definition. The plans for further modifications mark the third time in six years that WOTUS rules are undergoing changes. As part of the rulemaking process, EPA has announced a series of engagement opportunities. Workshops are scheduled for August 18, 23, 25, 26, and 31. September 2 has also been reserved in the event an additional meeting is necessary.
“It is vital that farmers and rural Americans have a seat at the table and a voice in this process so that the rule responds to concerns and realities on the ground,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “The engagement in the coming months is important and I encourage all stakeholders to provide their experiences and views in order to help shape future policy.”