Sep 16, 2019

U.S. Army & U.S. EPA Repeal 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule

  • Repeal effectively reverts Waters of the United States (WOTUS) to pre-2015 legal language.
  • Repeal will take effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register.
The Des Plaines river flows gently on the left as a bike path curves out of frame to the right.
The repeal of the WOTUS Rule allows some users to discharge wastewater into rivers, streams and other waterways without a permit.

On Sept. 12, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Army announced the repeal of the 2015 Water of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. The agencies announced Step 1 as the repeal and plan to announce Step 2 as the new rule that defines waters regulated under the Clean Water Act. 

Catch up on the Waters of the United States definition timeline:

According to an EPA news release, agencies will now implement the pre-2015 regulations. The final rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Groups including EPA, Army, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Dallas Builders Assn., announced support for the move at a Dallas Builders Assn. event where the repeal was announced.

“Today, EPA and the Department of the Army finalized a rule to repeal the previous administration’s overreach in the federal regulation of U.S. waters and recodify the longstanding and familiar regulatory text that previously existed,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s Step 1 action fulfills a key promise of President Trump and sets the stage for Step 2 – a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers nationwide.”

However, according to The New York Times, because of the repeal some polluters will no longer need a permit to discharge wastewater into some streams and wetlands. The Obama-era rule limited pollution in approximately 60% of the nation’s bodies of water by extending federal authority to protect both large and small bodies of water that drain into them, reported The New York Times. The repeal now limits protections on some smaller bodies of water and ephemeral streams. While the new rule is not yet released, it may limit protections of streams that run only during rainfalls and wetlands that are not connected to major bodies of water.

Many environmental groups are disputing the repeal and legal experts predict lawsuits across the county in response, reported The New York Times

“Much of the nation’s drinking water sources, already threatened by pollution from industry and agribusiness, will now be left unprotected as a result of this action,” said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources for The Environmental Working Group.

Editor's Note: This news article originally appeared on Water Quality Products titled "EPA, Army Repeal WOTUS Rule."

Read related content about the Clean Water Act:

Listen to the Talking Under Water episode about Waters of the United States: