On December 11, 2018 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly proposed to revise their regulatory definitions of “waters of the United States”, applying authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). CWA does not define this term clearly, so after decades of rulemakings and litigation, it remains in dispute. Generally, Democratic presidents and the judges they appoint tend to support geographically and semantically broad applications, while with Republican presidents and the judges they appoint tend to take narrower views. The latest proposal would narrow the definition, reversing Obama-era rules adopted in June 2015, and presently in effect in 22 states based on the present status of ongoing judicial appeals (I summarized the 2015 rules, and the litigation leading up to them here and the Trump-era EPA’s 2017 proposal to roll back the 2015 revisions here). The agencies characterize this narrowing as an increase in certainty for stakeholders, accomplished by eliminating some of the site-specific discretion that the 2015 rules provided to permit writers. Because of the government shutdown, this latest proposal was not published in the Federal Register until February 14, 2019.Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
In the last week before President Obama left office, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed a multi-year review of its Accidental Release Prevention (ARP) program for toxic catastrophe prevention, and adopted significant expansions of ARP requirements (I wrote about them here). EPA proposed ARP revisions in March 2016 (I blogged about them here). Then, when President Trump took office, EPA reversed course, repeatedly deferring the effective date of those revisions while the agency reviewed them. In May 2018 EPA completed its review, and published a proposal in the Federal Register to rescind almost all these expansions and return ARP requirement to those in place before 2017. EPA also included an alternative proposal that retained a few more elements, and requested public comment on both versions no later than July 30, 2018.Read More
On February 28, President Trump issued Executive Order (EO) Number 13778, ordering the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to review their current regulatory definitions of “waters of the United States” – sometimes called “navigable waters.” (I blogged about this definition here). The EO strongly points toward a narrower definition that would reduce the agencies’ jurisdiction, reversing rules issued in 2015 during President Obama’s administration.Read More
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to regulate the “discharge” of “dredged material” or “fill material” into “navigable waters.” Section 404 provision applies if someone wants to dredge a waterway, put fill (or a constructed feature such as a pier or berm) into a waterway, or fill a wetland that occupies a waterway, if that waterway is regulated by CWA as a “water of the United States.” That definition is subject to extreme controversy at the moment – several U.S. Supreme Court decisions struck down a century of agency interpretations, which the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sought to readjust by changing rules that have now been stayed pending litigation that’s certain to reach the Supreme Court again (I blogged about the rules here).Read More
The Clean Water Act (CWA) provides federal agencies with authority to regulate a wide range of activities that may affect “waters of the United States”—sometimes called “navigable waters.” These activities include water quality planning and discharge regulation by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and delegated states, and regulation of projects that may lead to “dredge and fill” of waters, through permits issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
If your business generates "hazardous" wastes, then you must manage them in compliance with applicable federal and state environmental laws and regulations. But did you know that the same regulations also require you to take steps to avoid generating such wastes in the first place? Regulations refer to these as "waste minimization" efforts.
Although federal and California regulations have introduced numeric effluent limits (NELs) for stormwater discharges, technical issues and an adverse regulatory environment have stalled these efforts. Here is a summary of stormwater regulatory history, and the current regulatory atmosphere.