The Trump administration has a twofold strategy for targeting the controversial Clean Water Rule (CWR), enacted during the Obama era: have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiate a rulemaking to rescind the rule first, then revise the definition of what constitutes Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
That strategy is spelled out in a letter EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt sent last week to officials in state and local government and with various water associations, whom Pruitt invited to contribute their "input and wisdom" at a meeting near the agency's headquarters on Wednesday.
"Consulting with state and local government officials, or their respective national organizations, is a priority to both myself and President Trump," Pruitt wrote in the letter, dated last Monday. "We believe this is an important step in the process prior to proposing regulations that may have implications on federalism as defined by the EPA's policy for implementing the order."
According to the letter, EPA is planning a two-step process over the CWR. It will first initiate a public rulemaking to rescind the rule and revert to laws governing water protection that were first enacted in 1986. The agency will then promulgate a revised definition of WOTUS, which defines what waterbodies deserve protection under the federal Clean Water Act.
The meeting is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. on Wednesday in a room at the William Jefferson Clinton East Building in Washington, DC. The building was formerly called the EPA East Building.
"We greatly look forward to the opportunity to sit at the table with our state and local partners from across the country to discuss the rule and develop an approach to address this significant issue while keeping the states at the forefront of our mission," Pruitt said.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told NGI's Shale Dailyon Thursday that the agency invited several organizations to the meeting, including the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, the National Association of Towns and Townships, the County Executives of America, and the Environmental Council of States.
Bowman added that the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Association of Clean Water Administrators, and the Association of State Wetland Managers were also invited to participate.
The meeting follows President Trump'sexecutive order (EO) at the end of February calling for EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to review the CWR. EPA and USACE jointly promulgated the CWR and unveiled it in May 2015, but in October of that year the Sixth District Court issued a stay and blocked it from being implemented.
Although Trump's EO did not repeal the CWR outright, it kicked off a review and rulemaking process expected to extend into 2018.
According to EPA, the proposed WOTUS definition would include all territorial seas, interstate waters and wetlands and all waters that are currently being used -- or which were used in the past or which may be susceptible for use in interstate or foreign commerce -- including all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide. It also includes certain impoundments, tributaries and adjacent waters, including wetlands.
Opponents of the rule worry that it is so broad that it could be used to include ditches and ruts in dirt roads that captured rainwater.
Shortly before his confirmation as EPA administrator, Pruitt vowed to quickly withdraw the CWR. Trump has also derided the rule as an example of federal regulatory overreach.