EPA and the Army Corps' Proposed Rule to Define 'Waters of the United States' [March 27, 2014]   [open pdf - 308KB]

"On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly proposed a rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposed rule would revise regulations that have been in place for more than 25 years. Revisions are proposed in light of Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that interpreted the regulatory scope of the CWA more narrowly than previously, but created uncertainty about the precise effect of the Court's decisions. In April 2011, EPA and the Corps proposed guidance on policies for determining CWA jurisdiction to replace guidance previously issued in 2003 and 2008; all were intended to lessen confusion over the Court's rulings. The 2011 proposed guidance was extremely controversial, with some groups contending that it represented a massive federal overreach beyond the agencies' statutory authority. Most environmental advocacy groups welcomed the proposed guidance, although some would have preferred a stronger document. The 2014 proposed rule would replace the existing 2003 and 2008 guidance, which remains in effect because the 2011 proposed guidance was not finalized. According to the agencies, the proposed rule would revise the existing regulatory definition of 'waters of the United States' consistent with legal rulings--especially the Supreme Court cases--and science concerning the interconnectedness of tributaries, wetlands, and other waters to downstream waters and effects of these connections on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters."

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CRS Report for Congress, R43455
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