A month after its release of the proposed rule under the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA), seeking to define “waters of the U.S.,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened up the public comment period on the proposed rule that could redefine the jurisdiction of the CWA. After decades of debate and seeking clarification, this is one issue that refuses to be water under the bridge. While the new rule did indeed clarify what water resources would be protected under the CWA, it has sparked great discussion on whether or not those involved agree on this new-found definition.
As previously discussed, the proposed rule has accomplished two objectives that appear to contradict one another. First, it provided clarity on the “waters of the U.S.” However, by providing that clarity, it unintentionally achieved another outcome. It ultimately created additional provisions that others will seek to define. In attempts to clear up confusion, it has potentially created more, contributing to this 40 year cycle of what is known as the CWA.
The biggest concern comes from the agricultural industry, where there is a sharp divide of support and opposition. While some farmers believe this rule will help serve the long-term interests of agriculture, others feel that it increases the amount of water and land under EPA’s authority. Supporters and non-supporters alike have until July 21, 2014 to provide their comments to the EPA. Prior to issuing a final rule, the EPA is required to respond to all comments.
Until then, we have created a brief infographic that highlights CWA’s overall impact since its inception in 1972.
Of course, we’ll continue to keep tabs on this topic as new developments take place.