Vol. 27, No. 8  ●  September 13, 2019

2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule Repealed

Waters of the U.S. in Prince William County, VA

Waters of the U.S. in Prince William County, VA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army have announced that they intend to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule and return the United States to the 1986 definition of Waters of the U.S. They plan to publish a Final Rule in the Federal Register soon¹, and have made a pre-publication version available; the policy will be effective 60 days after publication, likely mid-November 2019. The Trump Administration’s February 2018 repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule was suspended in 26 states last August, including Virginia and Maryland. This Final Rule publication will have implications for those 26 states; the other 24 – where the repeal has been in place since February 2018 – will see no changes. A reversion of the definition from the 2015 Rule to the 1986 definition has little impact in Virginia or Maryland, however the implications are significant for some other parts of the United States.  

The agencies began this process in response to the Trump Administration’s February 28, 2017 Executive Order 13778, Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the `Waters of the United States' Rule. They first published their intent to rescind the 2015 Rule in a proposed rule on July 27, 2017. This is the final piece of Step One in the Administration’s two step plan to revise the Waters of the U.S. definition. Step Two started December 11, 2018 with the publication of a proposed new definition for the Waters of the U.S.

Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. will continue to monitor this process and will provide more detail as more information becomes available. To discuss how these changes could affect your current and future projects, please contact Ben Rosner or Mark Headly in our Gainesville, Virginia office, Bob Kerr in our Virginia Beach office, or Mike Klebasko in our Millersville, Maryland office.

1 UPDATE, October 22, 2019: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the Final Rule on this day. The Rule will be effective 60 days from the date of issuance, December 21, 2019.


You can read about changes to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) definition in our previous Field Notes articles:

- WOTUS, WOTUS, Everywhere… or Not?, March 7, 2019

- Waters of the U.S.: New Definition Proposed, December 11, 2018

- WOTUS Definition in Limbo – EPA Delays Return to Pre-2015 Definition, November 8, 2018

- Federal Ruling Creates Delay in Corps of Engineers Process, August 23, 2018

- 6th Circuit Court Vacates WOTUS Rule Stay, April 11, 2018
(Reprinted with permission from the National Association of Home Builders. This article originally appeared in the February 28, 2018 edition of NAHB Now.)

- WOTUS 2020 - EPA and Department of the Army Delay Clean Water Rule of 2015, February 23, 2018

- A Graphic Description of WOTUS - Wetlandia, July 9, 2015

- EPA and COE Redefine Which Wetlands and Streams are Federally Regulated, June 2, 2015

Check out past issues in the Field Notes Archive.

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