EPA seeks public comment on WOTUS revision
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment through Aug. 28 on its proposal to repeal and replace the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, according to The National Law Review.
The proposed repeal, published in the Federal Register last week, would see a two-part plan that includes rescinding the Obama-era WOTUS rule and recodifying the language to reflect prior rules. The second step involves presenting a new rule narrowing the scope of WOTUS.
Though there is no specific timeline on the plan. In the first step, officials hope to restore 1986 regulations and 2008 definitions of how the Clean Water Act defines "waters of the U.S."
One of the linchpins of President Donald Trump's presidential campaign was that he would eliminate some regulations on business operations — including WOTUS, a move supported by construction industry leaders.
As the regulation's standards were being crafted, farmers and developers said the Obama administration's unclear definition of the rule's scope would qualify seemingly insignificant water sources under federal jurisdiction. The proposed return to pre-2015 language, in turn, comes as a relief to the rule's challengers who hope the revamped rule could ease project cost and time constraints they say are imposed by today's regulations.
While the building industry and other developers are eyeing a more scaled back version of the rule, they'll likely have to withstand challenges from environmental groups as the new WOTUS takes shape.
WOTUS isn't the only regulation the federal government has sought to undo. The House repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, also known as the "blacklisting" rule, which would have made disclosure of prior Department of Labor violations a prerequisite to bidding on federal contracts. This would have included Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations and fines. The DOL is also considering a repeal of its "persuader" rule, which would require employers to reveal third-party communications about employee attempts at unionization, even if that communication is protected by attorney-client privilege.
OSHA regulations have also come under fire under the Trump administration. In late June, the agency announced it had proposed changes to the beryllium exposure rule. Officials said some aspects of the rule as-is might not be necessary because they don't impact construction safety.
OSHA has also delayed the compliance deadline for its electronic recordkeeping rule until Dec. 1, allowing the agency more time for review. The regulations require that employers report injuries and illnesses in a public database, but critics contend the rule is a violation of employers' First and Fifth amendment rights. Even so, the agency announced earlier this month that its web-based reporting app would go live Aug. 1.
- Engineering News-Record Waters of the U.S. Rule, 859 Others, on Trump Chopping Block
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