EPA’s WOTUS replacement rule is finalized

The 2019 proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule has now been finalized. “All states have their own protections for waters within their borders, and many regulate more broadly than the federal government,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, according to an NPR report. “Our new rule recognizes this relationship and strikes the proper balance between Washington, D.C., and the states. And it clearly details which waters are subject to federal control under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and, importantly, which waters fall solely under the states’ jurisdiction.”

“For small businesses like mine, regulatory uncertainty and inconsistency result in real costs,” said Alan Parks, vice president of Memphis Stone & Gravel, in an NSSGA news release.  “The new WOTUS definition continues to protect our nation’s water and provides clarity on several key exclusions such as ponds built on dry land, pits, and basins associated with mining, and streams that only convey water after storm events. Knowing that our gravel pits and water treatment basins won’t carry an additional federal regulatory burden is very helpful. These changes will allow us to be even better stewards of our local natural resources, which results in a positive benefit to our community.”

The revised WOTUS rule replaces the 2015 WOTUS rule, which led to widespread confusion, delays and increased costs for aggregates producers, NSSGA reports.

When the earlier law was introduced, 27 states sued to block it. The revised rule clarifies that ephemeral waters are not subject to federal control. Rather, four categories of water are subject to federal control under the CWA: large navigable waters, tributaries, lakes and ponds, and major wetlands.

“The scope of federal jurisdiction over waters has been confusing for years, causing permitting delays.  The implementation of the 2015 WOTUS rule made matters worse,” said Mark Williams, environmental manager, Luck Companies, and chairman of NSSGA’s environmental committee. “We are pleased that the new rule provides important environmental protection of waters that need it most, while ensuring clarity to aggregates producers like Luck.  It’s important that both the regulators and NSSGA members are able to understand when a federal permit is required, so we can continue to provide materials for vital infrastructure projects.”

“NSSGA members have worked for years to get a WOTUS rule that aligns with congressional intent by providing necessary protections while allowing aggregates producers the regulatory certainty by which to plan and operate their businesses and provide the necessary infrastructure projects America needs,” added NSSGA President and CEO Michael W. Johnson.  

WOTUS heads to the White House for Review

The 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule will no longer be in effect, barring a legal stay, on Dec. 23, 2019. Photo by John Salzarulo for Unsplash.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final rule to replace the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule moves toward becoming a final rule. According to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), the rule is now at the White House to undergo interagency review. 

A replacement rule is expected by January 2020, with the 2015 rule being withdrawn in late December.

“NSSGA looks forward to a final WOTUS rule that provides clean water for everyone and legal clarity for NSSGA members,” said Emily Coyner, NSSGA senior environmental policy director, in a press release.

The association advocated “that ephemeral and isolated waters, pits and water treatment systems (including settling ponds) should never be federally regulated waters.” The proposed 2018 WOTUS rule reflected this input.