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April 3rd, 2019
By Megan Chase
The EPA is proposing to change a key term in the Clean Water Act: “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), which outlines water bodies that qualify for federal protection. Despite the fundamental need for clean water, the new definition of WOTUS would narrow the scope of federally protected waters.
In this 3-part blog series, we will explore:
The cuts to the Clean Water Act will have lasting impacts to our natural resources and communities, and we need your help! The EPA is accepting comments on the proposed rule until April 14th, and every comment will make a difference. You can submit comments through ProtectSouthernWater.org.
In the first part of this blog series, we looked at how the proposed changes directly threaten Upstate South Carolina. In Part 2, we will dive into the history of Clean Water Act (CWA) protections to provide clarity on federal jurisdiction, as well as the details on the proposed rollbacks.
Since it was passed in 1972, the CWA has been a crucial environmental safeguard used by state and local governments to protect clean water needed for healthy communities. The Clean Water Rule, known as the WOTUS (or Waters of the U.S.) rule, was published in 2015 to re-define waters that qualify for federal protection under the CWA. Without these protections, polluters could discharge directly into these waterways without public notice. The revised WOTUS definition currently proposed by the EPA would replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule.
The WOTUS definition under the 2015 Clean Water Rule determined when:
Activities exempt from federal jurisdiction under the 2015 Clean Water Rule:
The EPA’s proposed definition of WOTUS would include:
The following would no longer receive protection:
The EPA’s proposed changes to the definition of WOTUS under the Clean Water Act will undoubtedly impact our tributary and wetland systems, and will put our communities at risk when we no longer have the valuable ecological services those systems provide. You can act now to ensure the protection of our water resources by submitting comments on the proposed rule to the EPA through their Federal eRulemaking Portal or through the Southern Environmental Law Center’s action center.
Megan Chase is the Clean Water Advocate at Upstate Forever and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.