In a letter published in the Federal Register and issued on August 18, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers announced a plan to host 11 hearing sessions to determine how they can shorten government reach and better serve businesses in the enforcement of the Waters of the United States rule.
According to the Washington Examiner, the scope of the ruling, as part of the Clean Air Act, was widened during the Obama administration. It allowed the EPA enforce environmental regulations covering not only major waterways like lakes and rivers, but small streams and ditches on private lands. Miners, developers and oil and gas drillers were said to have experienced difficulties operating within the expanded boundaries.
The official announcement of the hearings comes as part of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in February as part of his ongoing campaign to decrease government regulatory control over the actions of independent businesses. The order stated protecting the country's aquatic bodies from pollution while also eliminating unnecessary regulation, advancing economic growth and respecting the wishes of the states and Congress is in the national interest.
President Trump mandated the term "navigable waters" be established in the Clean Air Act be reexamined, and eventually redefined. According to the order, the new terminology should be more in line with that established by Justice Antonin Scalia in the 2006 Rapanos v. United States court case–a definition that would effectively limit the scope of the federal government's role in the regulation of bodies of water.
"EPA is committed to an open and transparent process for reviewing the definition of 'waters of the United States,'" said Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, in the statement. "Receiving input from across the country will help us make informed decisions as we move through our two-step process that will return power to the states and to provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses."
Hearings be teleconferences of conducted from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time and will occur each week beginning on September 19 with a session for small businesses, organizations and governmental jurisdictions. The final hearing is on November 21 and is intended for the general public.
The EPA and Army Corp of Engineers will also be seeking comment from state and tribal governments to assist in their two-step rulemaking.
To register for a meeting, visit the link to the EPA website.