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Final Rule Alert: EPA Repeals 2015 WOTUS Rule

Posted on October 29, 2019 by Roger Marks

On October 22, 2019, US EPA officially repealed the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule, the long-embattled Obama-era regulation that expanded the scope of the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

How EPA defines the term “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) is critical to provide industry and the public with a clear picture of which bodies of water are subject to EPA Clean Water Act standards like Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) planning, oil spill notifications, NPDES permitting, stormwater discharge, dredge-and-fill, and other CWA programs.  

The repeal of the 2015 rule will end the confusing “patchwork” status of Clean Water Act implementation that existed following District Court decisions that left the 2015 rule in effect in fewer than half of US states. 

The repeal rule becomes effective on December 23, 2019 and restores the Clean Water Act regulations to their pre-2015 state. 

Learn what you must know to maintain compliance with EPA’s many water programs! The Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act online course is available anytime, anywhere. 

What Changes Now That EPA Repealed the 2015 WOTUS Rule?

In the 28 states where the 2015 rule was blocked by legal challenges, EPA continues to implement the pre-2015 regulatory text. 

For the 22 states in which the 2015 Rule did take effect (as well as Washington D.C. and US territories), EPA "is committed to providing updated information on an ongoing basis." Those with questions about pending Clean Water Act permits or jurisdictional determinations in these states should contact EPA or a local US Army Corps of Engineers Office. 

Get more details on EPA’s website.

What's Next? How Will EPA Define WOTUS Moving Forward?

Repeal of the 2015 WOTUS Rule is the first of two steps EPA will take to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act.  

In February 2019, EPA proposed a revised definition of Waters of the United States. EPA’s second step will be to collect public comments on their proposal and ultimately finalize a new, clearer definition of WOTUS.

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