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Comment period extended for WOTUS rule withdrawal

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) are extending the public comment period for the proposed rule on Definition of “Waters of the U.S.” – Recodification of Pre-existing Rules from August 28 until September 27.

This proposal, as originally published in the Federal Register, would withdraw the final 2015 "Waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule and reinstitute regulations that were in place prior to the 2015 WOTUS rule. This is the first of a two-step process to review and rewrite the WOTUS rule finalized under the Obama Administration in 2015. The proposed rule to rewrite the current WOTUS definition is expected to be released as early as this fall.

WOTUS is a term used in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to determine what waters and their conveyances fall under federal verses state permitting authority. In 2014, the EPA and the Corps undertook an effort to rewrite and expand the current WOTUS definition—this rule was finalized in 2015. Since the 2015 rule was originally proposed, NACo has expressed concerns with the impact a broader interpretation of WOTUS may have on county-owned and maintained roads and roadside ditches, bridges, flood control channels, drainage conveyances and wastewater and stormwater systems.

On February 28, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (EO) 13778 directing the EPA and Corps to review the 2015 WOTUS rule. In April, EPA held a consultation with national representatives of state and local governments to gather their input about their two-step plan to withdraw and rewrite the rule. As a result of the consultation, NACo, along with the National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), submitted a joint letter emphasizing the role local governments play in environmental programs as co-regulators and highlighted the importance for the federal government to collaborate with local governments on pending rules and regulations.

For more information on WOTUS and its impact on counties, contact Julie Ufner, NACo Associate Legislative Director for Environment, Energy & Land Use, at jufner@naco.org or 202-942-4269.

NACo Resources:

  • Click here to read the NACo, NLC and USCM joint Federalism letter on WOTUS
  • Click here to read NACo’s blog post: EPA and Corps propose to withdraw WOTUS rule; House proposes to limit public participation in WOTUS rewrite
  • Click here to read NACo’s fact sheet on WOTUS
  • Click here to read the original Federal Register notice to withdraw WOTUS rule