Administration Announces it Will Revise Definition of Waters of the United States

Administration Announces it Will Revise Definition of Waters of the United States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army announced on June 9 that they will revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that was included under the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule. On the same day, the Department of Justice filed a motion remanding the rule. The agencies will now undergo a new rulemaking process to redefine WOTUS through a public engagement process and considering the experience implementing the rule through both the Obama and Trump definitions.

“After reviewing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as directed by President Biden, the EPA and Department of the Army have determined that this rule is leading to significant environmental degradation,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “We are committed to establishing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ based on Supreme Court precedent and drawing from the lessons learned from the current and previous regulations, as well as input from a wide array of stakeholders, so we can better protect our nation’s waters, foster economic growth, and support thriving communities.”

The agencies’ new regulatory effort will be guided by the following considerations:

  • Protecting water resources and our communities consistent with the Clean Water Act.
  • The latest science and the effects of climate change on our waters.
  • Emphasizing a rule with a practical implementation approach for state and Tribal partners.
  • Reflecting the experience of and input received from landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, Tribes, local governments, community organizations, environmental groups, and disadvantaged communities with environmental justice concerns.

“Communities deserve to have our nation’s waters protected. However, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule has resulted in a 25 percentage point reduction in determinations of waters that would otherwise be afforded protection,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime A. Pinkham. “Together, the Department of the Army and EPA will develop a rule that is informed by our technical expertise, is straightforward to implement by our agencies and our state and Tribal co-regulators, and is shaped by the lived experience of local communities.”

June 15, 2021