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Another New WOTUS Definition Incoming

Posted on 8/30/2021 by Roseanne Bottone

US EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will soon initiate a rulemaking to strengthen Clean Water Act protections and establish a durable definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

The new rule will restore the regulatory definition of WOTUS that was in place before EPA revised it in 2015 (with updates to reflect relevant Supreme Court decisions). The 2015 rulemaking was repealed in 2019 and replaced with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule or NWPR.

The agencies will hold a virtual public meeting on September 2, 2021 at 2 PM ET to hear recommendations concerning the definition of WOTUS. The docket closes September 3.

Attendance requires registration, space is limited, and previous meetings were at capacity. 

Meeting details.

What’s WOTUS?

The Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits unauthorized discharge of pollutants from a point source into the “waters of the United States.”

Congress did not define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) in the law. Instead, they left it to US EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers to define the term in regulation.

For purposes of the Clean Water Act and its implementing regulations, EPA presently defines WOTUS as

"...jurisdictional waters that are:
  • The territorial seas, and waters which are currently used, or were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
  • Tributaries;
  • Lakes and ponds, and impoundments of jurisdictional waters; and
  • Adjacent wetlands" (40 CFR 120.2).

WOTUS and Clean Water Act Enforcement

Because Clean Water Act protections apply to “waters of the United States,” a clear definition of the term is crucial to ensure regulated business and individuals can plan their activities and make informed compliance decisions.

Maximum civil penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act increased to $56,460 per day, per violation in December 2020. Penalties increase on an annual basis.

In Massachusetts this year, two marine-oriented service companies reached an agreement with EPA to pay a joint penalty of $42,000 for allegedly dumping dredged material near Gloucester Harbor and into Ipswich Bay. Improper disposal of dredged materials endangers marine life.

Complete EPA Regulations Training

If you’re new to the EH&S field or need an update on changing EPA rules, Lion's live webinars are a convenient way to quickly build up your expertise.

On December 1 and 2, join Lion for live Complete Environmental Regulations training to identify the EPA rules that impact you. This instructor-led two-day webinar is updated to cover new and changing environmental regulations you should know about, including: 

  • Latest on EPA's new Waters of the US (WOTUS) Rule

  • Major Lautenberg Law amendments to TSCA

  • CSB's new chemical release reporting rule 

  • The latest Clean Air Act requirements for facilities 

Save your seat now

Or learn at your own pace with these two easy-to-use online courses: 
Complete Environmental Regulations Online
Clean Water Act & SDWA Regulations Online

Tags: Clean Water Act, environmental compliance, SPCC, WOTUS

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