EPA extends WOTUS comment period

Government provides 25 additional days to comment on the waters of the U.S. rule proposed by EPA.

The Environmental Protection Agency Monday said they will be extending the comment period for the second time on the proposed Waters of the United States rule. The deadline to comment has been extended from October 20 to November 14, 2014.

The rule, first proposed last spring, has been touted by the Administration as a way to provide more clarity required by court cases. Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA is authorized to regulate "navigable waters of the United States," such as rivers, bays, channels, etc. Under the proposed clarification EPA attempts to redefine what constitutes a water.

The agency already extended the comment period from 90 days to 182 days, and now for an additional 25 days. In a statement regarding the extension, EPA said it will not finalize the rule until it has fully reviewed the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) peer review of the report on the connectivity of streams and wetlands and finalized the scientific connectivity report.

An EPA spokesman said the report is expected the middle of this month.

The EPA said before drafting the latest proposal, it considered the 415,000 comments received on the issue over the past decade. Since releasing the proposal in March, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have conducted more than 340 outreach meetings across the country.

So far over 215,000 comments have been submitted on the proposed rule. Ken Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator in EPA’s Office of Water, noted that EPA is listening carefully to concerns being raised. “We’ve heard farmers and ranchers, who have questions and concerns about how the proposal may impact them,” he wrote in a Sept. 18 blog on the importance of public input regarding the rule.

Concerns mount

As time goes on, additional prominent groups are raising red flags regarding the proposal.

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommended that the EPA withdraw their proposed rule. The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy said the two agencies didn’t consult with small businesses, which, it said, would be directly and significantly affected by the WOTUS rule.

In comments submitted Oct. 1 to EPA and the Corps of Engineers, the Office of Advocacy said, “Concerns raised by small businesses as well as the agencies’ own economic analysis both indicate that small businesses will see a cost increase as a result of the revised [CWA] definition.” It pointed out that the agencies have obligations under Office of Management and Budget guidance and the Regulatory Flexibility Act to measure and communicate the increased cost. The Office of Advocacy said the rule should be withdrawn, and the agencies should conduct a Small Business Advocacy Review before promulgating the regulation.

The House passed legislation which would prevent EPA from implementing the rules and Republican senators have also introduced similar legislation in the Senate, although it isn’t expected to see floor action.

Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) called the comment period extension “little more than election-year politics from an Administration worried about retaining control of the Senate.” He urged constituents to air their grievances with the rule. “The proposed rule could have enormous consequences for farmers and ranchers. I hope the agency is flooded with additional comments that bring much-needed commonsense to an out-of-touch EPA,” Johanns said.

Other members again renewed calls that EPA should terminate the proposal.  

Submitting comments

Submitting comments on the proposed rule, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880, can be done by one of the following methods:

·         Federal e-Rulemaking Portal:http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

·         Email: [email protected]. Include EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line of the message.

·         Mail: Send the original and three copies of comments to: Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880.

·         Hand Delivery/Courier: Deliver comments to EPA Docket Center, EPA West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880. Such deliveries are accepted only during the Docket’s normal hours of operation, which are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. Special arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information. The telephone number for the Water Docket is 202-566-2426

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