EPA and the Army Corps' Proposed 'Waters of the United States' Rule: Congressional Response and Options [July 9, 2015] [open pdf - 277KB]
"On May 27, 2015, the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule revising regulations that define the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Discharges to waters under CWA jurisdiction, such as the addition of pollutants from factories or sewage treatment plants and the dredging and filling of spoil material through mining or excavation, require a CWA permit. The rule was proposed in 2014 in light of Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that created uncertainty about the geographic limits of waters that are and are not protected by the CWA. The rule, which becomes effective August 28, 2015, replaces EPA-Corps guidance that has governed permitting decisions since the Court's rulings. According to EPA and the Corps, their intent in proposing the rule was to clarify CWA jurisdiction, not expand it. Nevertheless, the rule has been extremely controversial, especially with groups representing property owners, land developers, and agriculture, who contend that it represents a massive federal overreach beyond the agencies' statutory authority. Most state and local officials are supportive of clarifying the extent of CWA-regulated waters, but some are concerned that the rule could impose costs on states and localities as their own actions become subject to new requirements. Most environmental advocacy groups welcomed the proposal, which would more clearly define U.S. waters that are subject to CWA protections, but beyond that general support, some in these groups favor an even stronger rule. The final rule contains a number of changes to respond to criticisms of the proposal, but the revisions may not satisfy all critics of the rule."
CRS Report for Congress, R43943