On Sept. 12, 2019, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency (“agencies”) announced a final rule (“Repeal Rule”) that changes the definition of the “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. Effectively, this rule repeals the 2015 rule in which the Obama administration expanded the definition of waters covered by the Clean Water Act. In addition, the agencies also published the revised definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
The federation and numerous other entities submitted comment letters opposing the narrowed definition of WOTUS and the repeal of the 2015 rule. The agencies are reviewing over 620,000 submitted comments.
The Repeal Rule excludes ephemeral features and streams, groundwater, many ditches, prior converted cropland, stormwater control systems and wastewater recycling structures and waste treatment systems from the jurisdiction of Clean Water Act.
The federation argues that rollbacks will cause significant damage to coastal natural resources and economy including:
- Reverse efforts to protect and enhance thousands of acres of wetlands, hundreds of miles of coastal fringing marshes and clean thousands of acres of estuarine waters.
- Weaken North Carolina’s coastal economy that heavily relies on clean water.
- Compromise the integrity of the nation’s waters.
The next step is the publication of the rule in the Federal Register. Upon the publication, Southern Environmental Law Center will file a legal complaint on behalf of the federation and other interested parties.