Thursday, February 23, 2012

EPA & Corps Submit Final Water Guidance To OMB

Feb 22: With little fanfare U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have submitted final guidance to clarify protection of waters under the Clean Water Act to the Office of Management and Budget for Federal interagency review. EPA indicates that the guidance "will provide more predictable and consistent procedures for identifying waters and wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act." EPA indicates that the guidance is focused on protection of smaller waters that feed into larger ones, to keep downstream water safe from upstream pollutants. The focus is also on reaffirming protection for wetlands that filter pollution and store water and help keep communities safe from floods.
    In April 2011, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released draft guidance to clarify protection of waters under the Clean Water Act [See WIMS 4/27/11]. The proposed Guidance was published in the Federal Register on May 2, 2011 [76 FR 24479-24480]. About 230,000 public comments on the draft guidance were received by the agencies. Most recognized the importance of effective implementation of the Clean Water Act to protect human health and water quality.
    EPA said, "The guidance will not extend federal protection to any waters not historically protected under the Clean Water Act and will be fully consistent with the law, including decisions of the Supreme Court. The guidance will also maintain all of the existing exemptions for agricultural discharges and waters, and also identify specific types of water bodies to which it does not apply – areas like artificial lakes and ponds, and many types of drainage and irrigation ditches."
    EPA and the Corps of Engineers also said they have heard requests from Congress, industry organizations, environmental groups, states and the public for rulemaking to further clarify the requirements of the Clean Water Act consistent with decisions of the Supreme Court. The agencies propose to finalize the guidance and to continue work on a rulemaking.
     Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen, commended EPA and other Federal agencies for the latest action to preserve the nation's waters and said, "We are pleased that the Obama administration is taking this important step to protect rivers, streams and all of our waterways from pollution. The public depends on clean water and demands programs that limit water pollution. This new guidance replaces two bad Bush administration guidances that left millions of miles of streams and acres of wetlands without safeguards from pollution. Clean water is critical to public health, the economy, and communities."
    Jan Goldman-Carter, senior manager, wetlands and water resources for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said, "More than 250 state and local sportsmen organizations, watershed groups and outdoor businesses from 11 Great Lakes, Southern and Western states recently have called on the administration to act quickly to finalize the guidance and proceed with rulemaking."
    Access the statement from Earthjustice (click here). Access a release from NWF and link to groups letters and lists of organizations (click here). Access the OMB OIRA website for this action (click here). Access EPA's website on Clean Water Act Definition of "Waters of the United States" for complete background (click here). Access the FR announcement (click here). Access the dockets for this action for background and comments (click here). [#Water]
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