The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army have proposed a two-year delay in the effective date of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rules that would have far-reaching effects on drilling contractors and how they treat and dispose of drilling fluids. This would give the agencies time to reconsider the definition of “waters of the United States.”
The new implementation date would be two years after the mid-November, 2017, announcement by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and the finalization and publication of his proposal in the federal register.
“Today’s proposal shows our commitment to our state and tribal partners and to providing regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and businesses,” Pruitt says. “This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the ‘waters of the United States.’ ”
The 2015 Obama Administration rule, which had been held up by court challenges before the 2016 election, redefined the scope of where the Clean Water Act applied. Its original effective date was Aug. 28, 2015, but it had been stayed by the Sixth Circuit. The stay may eventually also be affected by a pending Supreme Court case. The EPA and Army proposed the delay to provide certainty and consistency to regulated industries.
"The Army, together with the Army Corps of Engineers, propose this rule with EPA to help continue to provide clarity and predictability to the regulated public during the rulemaking process. We are committed to implementing the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program as transparently as possible for the regulated public," says Mr. Ryan Fisher, acting assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works).
The proposed delay is separate from a process the agencies propose to take to reconsider the original 2015 rule. A comment period for the first step of that process wrapped up in September, and the agencies are reviewing public comments. The agencies are also holding listening sessions with industry stakeholders as they work to develop a proposed second step, which would revise the definition of WOTUS. Final action is expected in early 2018.
For addition information or to comment on this proposal, visit www.epa.gov/wotus-rule.