NEMWI Submits Comment on Proposed Repeal of the Clean Water Rule

October 2, 2017

The Northeast-Midwest Institute submitted a comment last week on the proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water Rule, issued by the same agencies in 2015, clarifies which bodies of water are protected by the Clean Water Act. Specifically, the Clean Water Act protects the “waters of the United States,” and the Clean Water Rule provides rules for determining which bodies of water, including wetlands and intermittent streams, are included in that definition.

Currently the Clean Water Rule is not being enforced as a result of a stay issued by the Federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the rule has not been invalidated. The Institute’s comment argues that it is premature to rescind the existing rule before the case has been resolved, particularly when the current repeal process was explicitly drafted to avoid discussing what a final replacement rule, which the agencies state would come later, would look like.

The Clean Water Rule addresses an important problem—it is difficult to protect bodies of water when it is unclear if the Clean Water Act applies to them. Protecting these bodies of water is important in itself, but there are also larger environmental implications. For example, by clarifying their status under the Clean Water Act, the Clean Water Rule helps protect wetlands.

These wetlands are diverse ecosystems, and they help filter agricultural runoff pollution that enters the water. In the Mississippi River Basin, wetlands are an important part of efforts to reduce agricultural pollution in the river and ultimately address the annual dead-zone that forms in the Gulf of Mexico. Repeal of the Clean Water Rule would unnecessarily jeopardize these protections.

The full comment submitted by the Institute is available here.