To the relief of electric cooperatives, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to replace its 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which significantly expanded what waters and wetlands should be federally regulated.
EPA on Dec. 11 proposed to limit “waters of the U.S.” to traditional navigable waters and tributaries, ditches, wetlands and other features that have direct and consistent flows into navigable waters.
The new rule would also retain and clarify previous exclusions for groundwater, roadside or farm ditches, prior converted cropland, storm water control features and waste treatment systems.
NRECA worked with industry coalitions to encourage EPA to replace the 2015 rule that would have increased costs and red tape for electric co-ops to meet infrastructure construction and maintenance requirements.
“We applaud the administration for recognizing the need to replace the WOTUS rule,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.
“We look forward to working with regulators on a more workable and lawful regulation, one that allows electric co-ops to conduct maintenance and build new infrastructure without triggering additional and more onerous permitting requirements.”
The proposed rule also would reconfirm the shared federal and state responsibility for protecting water and clarifying which waters and wetlands would come under federal regulation.
The 2015 rule remains stayed in 28 states as several courts consider its legality.
“The 2015 rule was a significant overreach of the federal government’s authority to regulate water and land,” said Matheson.
EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The organizations have scheduled an informational webcast on the proposal for Jan. 10, 2019, and a listening session in Kansas City, Kansas, on Jan. 23, 2019.
Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.