Thursday, June 29, 2017

WOTUS off the books

Waters of the US rescinded

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have officially stripped the “waters of the U.S.,” or WOTUS, rule off the books, by sending a withdraw order to the Federal Register on Tuesday.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Interior subcommittee that following withdrawal of the old rule, the replacement rule would be issued by the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2018, at the latest.

“We're taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. “This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.,’ and we are committed to moving through this reevaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

Secretary Pruitt has more leverage than his prediction to the House Interior and Environment spending subcommittee on June 15 and that a new rule – not just a proposal – would be adopted in that time frame. Nevertheless it’s still a brisk timetable, given the need to accept and adequately respond to comments. In addition and there’s still a good chance that environmental groups will challenge the withdrawal in court.

The proposed withdrawal comes with a 30-day comment period, that a short time span given the controversial nature of WOTUS.

But Congress is ready to help EPA get around sticky administrative requirements. The energy and water spending bill released by the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday would allow EPA and the Corps to withdraw the rule “without regard to any provision of statute or regulation that establishes a requirement for such withdrawal,” such as the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires agencies to consider public comments before adopting new regulations.

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