The House Science, Space and Technology's Subcommittee on the Environment is scheduled to discuss the future of the Waters of the U.S. Rule or "WOTUS" rule. The regulation determines which wetlands and small waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. The subcommittee will also examine state participation in administering Clean Water Act regulations this week.
U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has argued that states will take on wetland protection that would be lost if WOTUS were repealed. SWS joined with a number of science societies to oppose the repeal of the WOTUS rule and urged the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to fully evaluate the impact of such a change at the state level and the capacity and willingness of states to take on the responsibility for wetland protections. In states that have no state wetland protection laws, many wetlands and headwater streams would be unprotected at both the federal and state levels.
States have had the option to assume responsibility for the Section 404 permit program since the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, yet only two states, Michigan and New Jersey, have chosen to do so. An additional 21 states have some type of dredge-and-fill permit program, many of which rely on federal grant funding and collaboration. The majority of states rely on the technical and financial support of the federal government in administering wetlands protection policies, and thus are not likely to have the capacity or the inclination to take on wetland protection in the absence of federal protection. In addition, the Trump Administration has proposed drastic reductions to the EPA budget, which would result in diminished federal financial support of state wetland programs. The reduction of federal funding must also be considered when evaluating the capability of states to administer wetland programs.