Dear Administrator Pruitt and Mr. Fisher:
On behalf of our nearly 200,000 members, the undersigned science societies respectfully submit the following comments in response to your solicitation regarding the proposed rule, Definition of "Waters of the United States" - Addition of an Applicability Date to 2015 Clean Water Rule, EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0644, published in the Federal Register on November 22, 2017. The undersigned societies are science-based organizations with diverse areas of expertise in the ecological, hydrologic and biological sciences. Our members work in the private sector, academia, and various tribal, state and federal agencies. We support wetland and aquatic resource research, education, restoration and sustainable management, and foster sound science. Thus, we promote science-based policy-making for the benefit of aquatic resources and the goods and services these resources supply in support of the health and economy of local communities.
We strongly oppose the proposed rule, Definition of "Waters of the United States" - Addition of an Applicability Date to 2015 Clean Water Rule. The Clean Water Rule became effective on August 28, 2015, and the proposal to add an "applicability date" would effectively suspend the Clean Water Rule for two years from the date of final action on the proposal. In Clean Air Council v. Pruitt, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently stated that an order delaying a rule's effective date is "tantamount to amending or revoking a rule." 862 F.3d 1, 6 (D.C. Cir. 2017). Thus, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers' most recent proposal is an attempt to amend the Clean Water Rule. Accordingly, we renew our earlier objections to the agencies' proposed rulemakings1 : any agency action concerning "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS)—including the effective suspension of the Clean Water Rule—must be supported by peer reviewed science and a valid economic analysis. The proposed rule to add an "applicability date" to the Clean Water Rule currently lacks any such support. Continue reading.