Washington Waves
Washington Waves

EPA, Corps Unveil New WOTUS Final Rule

Washington, D.C.—The Biden administration announced a final rule to conform its contentious Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition to a divided Supreme Court ruling that did not go its way.

Unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the new rule will take effect when published in the Federal Register.

It appears to have done little to quiet the debate over WOTUS that has lasted through three administrations.

A “disappointed” EPA Administrator Michael Regan conceded the two agencies were obligated to apply the top court’s decision in the Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency case to their WOTUS rule.

In its May decision, the court ruled that federal regulation could be applied only to wetlands with a continuous surface connection to jurisdictional waters.

The EPA stated its amendment to its WOTUS definition is limited and addresses only those parts ruled invalid under the Sackett decision.

“The agencies are issuing this amendment to the 2023 rule expeditiously—three months after the Supreme Court decision—to provide clarity and a path forward consistent with the ruling,” the EPA added.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor said the Corps now can resume issuing approved jurisdictional determinations.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, expressed disappointment in the Biden administration’s new rule.

“The administration continues to take an unserious approach to issuing a durable rule that provides stability to millions of Americans,” Moore Capito said.

She added the new rule likely will be rejected by the courts.

Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and David Rouzer (R-N.C.), chair of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, described the administration’s action as a “missed opportunity.”

“Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s revised rule barely pays lip service to the Sackett decision,” they said.

The two agencies have scheduled a public webinar on the new rule at 3 p.m. Eastern September 12.

Contact epa@horsleywitten.com by September 5 with questions about this event, which will have limited capacity.

Additional sessions are expected to be held in the fall with co-regulators and stakeholders.

Medical Advisory Committee

The National Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee is scheduled to conduct virtual meetings September 12-13 to discuss matters relating to medical certification determinations for issuance of licenses, certificates of registry and merchant mariners’ documents, medical standards and guidelines for the physical qualifications of operators of commercial vessels, medical examiner education and medical research.

The Subcommittee on proposed Task Statement 23–X1—Directed Review of the Merchant Mariner Medical Manual also is to meet on the first day.

Open to the public, the virtual meetings are set to begin at 10 a.m. on both days.

A limited number of virtual lines will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To ensure comments are received by the committee before the virtual meetings, submit them by September 5, preferably via www.regulations.gov.

To submit comments through an alternative method, join the virtual meetings or request special accommodations, contact Pamela Moore at pamela.j.moore@uscg.mil by 1 p.m. EDT on September 5.

CG Core Values

Coast Guard Commandant Linda Fagan used an open letter to speak of her service’s failure to fully apply its core values, principles of operation or ethos to its own workplaces.

“Disconnection from our core values can occur anywhere in our Service,” Fagan said.

“It is revealed by reports of sexual assault, harassment, hazing, bullying, retaliation, discrimination and other harmful workplace behaviors.”

In June, two key senators sent Fagan a letter seeking accountability for the mishandling of a previously undisclosed investigation concerning sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations associated years ago with the Coast Guard Academy.

“This information is disturbing,” wrote Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), a member of the panel.

In July, Fagan initiated a 90-day Accountability and Transparency Review to assess the Coast Guard’s authorities, policies, processes, practices, resources and culture.

“I expect all Coast Guard leaders to provide all members of our workforce a positive experience reflective of our core values,” the admiral said.

“Our mission success depends on it.”

Great Lakes Advisory Board

The Great Lakes Advisory Board (GLAB) is scheduled to meet virtually at noon (CDT) September 18.

Members of the public must register by 2 p.m. (CDT) September 15 to view the meeting, and those seeking to speak or submit written comments also must make that request in advance.

GLAB provides advice on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada.

For information on registering and submitting comments, contact Todd Nettesheim at 312-353-9153 or Nettesheim.Todd@epa.gov.

Port Access Route Studies

The Coast Guard announced it considers the Consolidated Port Approaches Port Access Route Studies (CPAPARS), which summarizes four regional port access route studies along the Atlantic Coast, complete as published March 10.

An ongoing dialogue with the maritime industry also is included in the CPAPARS.

The Coast Guard said it made the decision to consider the CPAPARS complete after determining the comments received on the version published in March did not require a revision.

The CPAPARS summarizes the findings of four regional port access route studies: the Northern New York Bight; Seacoast of New Jersey Including Offshore Approaches to the Delaware Bay, Delaware; approaches to the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia; and the Seacoast of North Carolina.

For additional information, contact Maureen Kallgren at 202-372-1561 or Maureen.r.kallgren2@uscg.mil.