U.S. Clean Water Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have finalized the Clean Water Rule, designed to protect and restore water sources nationwide. The rule will redevelop clear safeguards against unregulated pollution and destruction for nearly two million miles of streams and tens of millions of acres of wetlands in the continental U.S.

In this final rule, the agencies clarify the scope of “waters of the United States” that are protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), based upon the text of the statute, Supreme Court decisions, the best available peer-reviewed science, public input, and the agencies’ technical expertise and experience in implementing the statute.

According to the EPA, the rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.

In developing the rule, the agencies held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country, reviewed over one million public comments, and listened to perspectives from all sides. EPA and the Army also utilized the latest science, including a report summarizing more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies which showed that small streams and wetlands play an integral role in the health of larger downstream water bodies.

The EPA describes how “climate change makes protection of water resources even more essential. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities by trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Impacts from climate change like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures threaten the quantity and quality of America’s water. Protecting streams and wetlands will improve our nation’s resilience to climate change.”

 

Publication Date: June 1, 2015

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