In the 88-page Federal Register document dated April 21, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the proposed rule updates for protecting the nation’s wetlands and streams.  The rule attempts to clarify the definition of waters of the U.S.   

The EPA said, “Determining when the Clean Water Act protected streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.” The EPA has now set a path with the rule to take broader control of many areas previously unregulated following the SWANCC and Rapanos decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Showing its disagreement with the EPA, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to block implementation of the new rule.  H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014, passed the House 262-152.  It is unlikely that this bill will advance in the senate. 

According to Lamar Smith, U.S. Representative for Texas’ 21st congressional district, the draft rule redefines “waters of the United States” under the CWA to include all natural and man-made tributary streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands that affect downstream navigable waters. The rule is so broad that it effectively gives the EPA regulatory control over all man-made and natural bodies of water in the U.S.

If it doesn’t change anything as EPA maintains, why does it take 88 pages? 

During a seminar attended by several Westwood wetland professionals, The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was unable to provide clear answers about the proposed changes by the EPA, other than to suggest that there would be more regulation and longer timeframes for reviewing projects and processing permits.

If the rule is adopted, the USACE will review more areas on a case-by-case basis.  They will also regulate isolated wetlands which were previously not regulated by the CWA.  The environmental scientists at Westwood have broad national experience in providing guidance through the regulatory “clarity” of wetland regulations.

source:Federal Register