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Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rulemaking

Rulemaking Process

On this page:
Learn More about the "waters of the United States" Rulemakings:

Public Comment Periods

Step One - Repeal

There are currently no open public comment periods. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Army (the agencies) sought additional comment on the proposed Repeal of the 2015 Rule through a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking.  The public comment period closed on August 13, 2018.  

Step Two - Revise

On December 11, 2018 the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army (the agencies) proposed a revised definition of "waters of the United States" that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act. The agencies will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. 

Once the public comment period opens, the public is encouraged to submit written comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149,  to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. General guidance on making effective comments is available at EPA's Commenting on EPA Dockets.

Applicability Date to the 2015 Rule

There are currently no open public comment periods. The final rule was signed on January 31, 2018, and was published in the Federal Register on February 6, 2018. Please visit “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’: Rule Status and Litigation Update” for updates regarding the status of this final rule. 


Two-Step Process

The agencies are implementing Executive Order 13778, Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” Rule, in two steps to provide certainty to the regulated community and the public while the agencies develop a revised definition of "waters of the United States."

  1. Step One - Repeal - The agencies are proposing to repeal the 2015 Rule and recodify the regulation that was in place prior to issuance of the 2015 Rule.
  2. Step Two - Revise - The agencies plan to propose a new definition that would replace the approach in the 2015 Rule and the pre-2015 regulations, taking into consideration the principles that Justice Scalia outlined in the Rapanos plurality opinion.

Until a new definition of “waters of the United States” is in place, please visit the "Rule Status and Litigation Update" page for additional information about current implementation. 

Both proposed steps of this rulemaking process will follow the Administrative Procedure Act


Executive Order

On February 28, 2017, the President signed the “Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” EXIT The E.O. calls on the EPA Administrator and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to review the final 2015 Rule and “publish for notice and comment a proposed rule rescinding or revising the rule….” The E.O. directs that the EPA and the Department of Army “shall consider interpreting the term ‘navigable waters’” in a manner “consistent with Justice Scalia’s opinion” in Rapanos v. United States (2006).


Federal Register Notice of Intention to Review and Rescind or Revise the Clean Water Rule

In accordance with the Presidential directive in Executive Order 13778, on March 6, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army announced their intention to review and rescind or revise the 2015 Clean Water Rule.