EPA Delays New WOTUS Definitions

ditchThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will wait until August to release its proposed new definitions for “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), which means that the final version won’t be ready until the fall of 2019.

The proposal would replace the Obama Administration definitions finalized in 2015 and now making their way through the courts.

EPA is following a two-step rulemaking process: The agency will first finalize the repeal of the Obama Administration’s 2015 WOTUS definition and temporarily replace it with the original, 1986 regulatory definition.

The agency continues its work on finalizing Step 1: the repeal of the 2015 WOTUS definition, and that proposal should be released by the White House sometime this month.

It is widely expected that the Trump administration’s new WOTUS definitions, or Step 2, will be much narrower and not automatically assert federal jurisdiction over isolated wetlands, ephemeral streams, and even common roadside drainage ditches, some of which were included in the 2015 version.

A narrower WOTUS definition should mean that fewer projects would require federal wetlands permits, which can trigger mitigation requirements, historic preservation reviews, or even reviews on impacts under the Endangered Species Act.

For additional information, contact Michael Mittelholzer or look at this FAQ on the rulemaking process.

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