The National Association of Counties (NAC0) reported in a January 21 teleconference update that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has processed close to 900,000 public comments on its proposed “Waters of the United States” definitional rule change to the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and expects that total to reach nearly 1 million by the time EPA finishes. The public comment period to respond has now closed.
NACo stated that EPA intends to release a final rule by April 2015 but members of both the United States House of Representatives and Senate plan to introduce legislation to negate the proposed rule and force EPA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to work with the states and write a new rule.
There will be a bicameral hearing on the state and local implications of the proposed rule on February 4 at 10 AM at the House Visitors Center of the United States Capitol. NACo intends to provide county witnesses.
MACo submitted comments to EPA on November 3, 2014, expressing concern that rule would expand the “waters of the US” definition to include (1) county maintained road and drainage ditches; and (2) stormwater management structures, including environmental site design (ESD) structures such as rain gardens and vegetated swales. Inclusion under the definition could subject those structures to federal permitting requirements and enhanced water quality standards, creating greater costs and uncertainty for counties already struggling to meet Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) water pollution reductions. It could also encourage additional litigation over county municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permits. MACo requested that ditches and stormwater structures not already subject to the CWA be explicitly excluded from the proposed definition.
NACo subsequently submitted its own comments, calling for the proposed rule to be withdrawn.