On August 28, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (Army) published a Federal Register notice announcing that the agencies will hold ten teleconferences to hear from stakeholders on recommendations to revise the definition of ‘‘Waters of the United States’’ or “WOTUS” under the Clean Water Act. Nine of the teleconferences will be stakeholder specific calls, i.e., agriculture (row crop, livestock, silviculture); conservation (hunters and anglers); small entities (small businesses, small organizations, small jurisdictions); construction and transportation; environment and public advocacy (including health and environmental justice); mining; industry (energy, chemical, oil/gas); scientific organizations and academia; and stormwater, wastewater management, and drinking water agencies. One of the teleconferences will be open to the general public.
The teleconferences will be held on Tuesdays from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm eastern beginning on September 19, 2017. The agencies will also hold an in-person meeting on October 23, 2017 from 9:00 am – 11:00 am eastern. The full schedule, along with information on how to register, can be found on EPA’s Outreach Meetings webpage.
The meetings are part of what the agencies describe as Step Two of a two step process to implement the “Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule,” Executive Order 13778, 82 FR 12497. Executive Order 13778 calls on the EPA Administrator and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to develop a revised definition of WOTUS.
Step One of the two step process was to propose a rule to rescind a 2015 rule defining WOTUS and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 rule. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on July 27, 2017, and on August 16, 2017, EPA and the Army extended the public comment period for the proposed rule by 30 days. The comment period will close on September 27, 2017. The proposed rule can be found at 82 FR 34899.
In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is currently soliciting comments on its existing regulations that should be considered for repeal, replacement, or modification pursuant to Executive Order 13777, 82 FR. 33470. Executive Order 13777 directed federal agencies to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force tasked with reviewing existing regulations and making recommendations on whether repeal, replacement, or modification is warranted. Comments must be submitted to the Corps by September 18, 2017.