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Final Rule Alert: EPA's New Waters of the United States Rule

Posted on April 21, 2020 by Roger Marks

UPDATE: US EPA published its Final Rule Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of "Waters of the United States" to the Federal Register on April 21.

The Final Rule takes effect on June 22, 2020. 

Read the Final Rule

Live training on the new WOTUS Rule

EPA's New Waters of the US Rule Webinar
April 22, 2020 (1:00 to 2:30 PM ET)
Reserve your spot.

US EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have signed a Final Rule to limit and clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act following the repeal of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.

At the heart of this Navigable Waters Protection Rule is a new definition for the key regulatory term “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS. The definition of WOTUS tells the regulatory community which bodies of water are subject to EPA Clean Water Act programs, including, but not limited to:
 
  • Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Planning.
  • Oil spill notifications.
  • NPDES permitting.
  • Stormwater discharge.
  • Dredge-and-fill.

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule is the result of a two step EPA process.

Step 1 was to repeal the 2015 Waters of the US Rule and reinstate the pre-2015 Clean Water Act applicability standards. Step 2 is the new Final Rule, which sets a new, clearer definition of WOTUS and makes other revisions. 

Four Categories of Covered Waters

The new Final Rule lays out four categories of waters that are considered WOTUS:
  • Territorial seas and traditional navigable waters;
  • Perennial and intermittent tributaries to those waters;
  • Certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and
  • Wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters.
The new definition of WOTUS explicitly excludes twelve distinct categories of waters. These include many ditches, groundwater, prior converted cropland, and others. The Final Rule also establishes new definitions for regulatory terms like adjacent wetlands, perennial, ephemeral, ditch, high tide line, and others. 

The Final Rule will take effect 60 days after it appears in the Federal Register. Watch this space for an update when the rule is officially promulgated.

A pre-publication copy of the Final Rule is available on EPA's website. 

Online Environmental Compliance Training

Identify the major EPA air, water, and chemical programs that impact your job–from the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts to CERCLA, EPCRA, TSCA, RCRA, and more.

The Complete Environmental Regulations online course covers the keys to applicability, critical requirements, and how to identify the regulatory mandates that affect your operations. Train when and where you want, and get a full year of follow-up compliance support through your Lion Membership. 

New Webinar: EPA's New Waters of the US Rule

Do you know how EPA’s new Waters of the United States Rule will impact your Clean Water Act responsibilities? 

During this 90-minute webinar, find out what’s in the new rule—which waters are covered, which are excluded, new definitions, and how the new regulation compares to previous EPA policy.

Plus, get answers to your questions during the Q&A scheduled for the end of the session.

The next session is scheduled for April 22 at 1 PM ET.

Save your spot here.