No Extension for WOTUS Comment Deadline, Members Urged to Engage

WOTUS_reszd(March 26, 2019) - The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are holding firm on the April 15, 2019 public comment deadline for the revised Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition, despite multiple stakeholder calls for an extension.   

After releasing a pre-publication version on December 11, 2018—which was publicly posted on both EPA and USACE websites—and the five-week federal government shutdown, the agencies believe that a total of 125 days from pre-publication to the existing deadline is enough time for the public to review and submit meaningful comments.

Congress continues to urge EPA and USACE to extend the comment period. In February 2019, the House and Senate sent letters to EPA requesting that both agencies give at least the same amount of time (207 days) to comment on this proposal as was provided for the 2015 Clean Water Rule.

After finding out that EPA and USACE would not extend the comment period beyond the April 15 deadline, Chairs from the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment doubled down on their extension request and asked the agencies again to consider an extension, stating that “a 60-day comment period is insufficient” for a rule that “will significantly curtail the Clean Water Act.”

NACWA is currently drafting formal comments to submit by April 15. While in Albuquerque for the 2019 Winter Conference, NACWA discussed several of the key changes to the WOTUS definition and the potential impacts to the clean water community with members. NACWA was pleased to see municipal exclusions contained in the 2015 Clean Water Rule carry over to the proposed rulemaking and will advocate that these critical exclusions be maintained when the rule is finalized.

While NACWA is submitting comments on behalf of the Association, individual utility members are also encouraged to submit comments regarding their thoughts on the proposed rule.  One thing that became evident during discussion of the proposal during NACWA’s Winter Conference is that there is a broad range of opinions across the public clean water utility spectrum regarding the rule, and it is important for EPA and the USACE to hear from all utilities on this important regulatory issue. 

If any members have questions on the revised WOTUS definition, or are willing to share their utility-specific comments on the rule, please contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.