EPA and the Army Corps' Rule to Define 'Waters of the United States' [September 1, 2015] [open pdf - 784KB]
"On May 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly announced a final rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The rule revises regulations that have been in place for more than 25 years. Revisions are being made in light of 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings that interpreted the regulatory scope of the CWA more narrowly than the agencies and lower courts were then doing, and created uncertainty about the appropriate scope of waters protected under the CWA. According to the agencies, the new rule revises the existing administrative definition of 'waters of the United States' consistent with the CWA, legal rulings, the agencies' expertise and experience, and science concerning the interconnectedness of tributaries, wetlands, and other waters and effects of these connections on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters. Waters that are 'jurisdictional' are subject to the multiple regulatory requirements of the CWA. Non-jurisdictional waters are not subject to those requirements. This report describes the final revised rule--which the agencies refer to as the Clean Water Rule--and includes a table comparing the existing regulatory language that defines 'waters of the United States' with the revisions. The rule is particularly focused on clarifying the regulatory status of surface waters located in isolated places in a landscape. It does not modify some categories of waters that are jurisdictional under existing rules (traditional navigable waters, interstate waters and wetlands, the territorial seas, and impoundments). The rule also lists waters that would not be jurisdictional, such as prior converted cropland and certain ditches. It makes no change to existing statutory exclusions, such as CWA permit exemptions for normal farming and ranching activities."
CRS Report for Congress, R43455