July 6, 2017
RE: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0203: Request for Extension of Comment Period on the Proposed Rule Titled “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ – Recodification of Preexisting Rules”
Dear Administrator Pruitt and Deputy Assistant Secretary Lamont,
We are writing on behalf of our millions of supporters to insist that your agencies substantially extend the period during which you will accept citizen input on the proposed rule to rescind the 2015 Clean Water Rule (80 FR 37054) to allow for no fewer than six months to comment, which is approximately the amount of time that the Agencies’ provided to comment on the 2015 Clean Water Rule.
Your planned 30-day comment period disregards the more than one million people who participated in the development of that rule and is a grossly inadequate amount of time for stakeholders to meaningfully engage in this rulemaking process. The planned period for comment lasts only half as long as Executive Order 12,866 indicates is minimally appropriate for any rulemaking; for a rule of this nature, the agencies must provide much longer.
EPA and the Army Corps adopted the Clean Water Rule to clear up longstanding confusion over which water bodies were protected under the Clean Water Act. The rulemaking responded to the request of stakeholders ranging from states to regulated dischargers to environmental groups and was developed based on clear science and legal reasoning, and with the meaningful engagement of stakeholders.
The Clean Water Rule rulemaking process allowed vigorous public engagement over several years. EPA and the Army Corps took comments on the proposed rule from April 21 to November 14, 2014 and received over one million public comments, the vast majority of which supported the rule. The agencies also held over 400 meetings with a variety of stakeholders, including small businesses, farmers, energy companies, states, counties, municipalities, other federal agencies, environmental organizations, and more.
The Clean Water Rule also relied on an enormous scientific record. EPA spent years producing a report which included the findings of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications examining the connections between various kinds of water resources. This report showed that headwater, seasonal, and rain-dependent streams and wetlands serve critical functions. Indeed, 117 million Americans receive drinking water from public water systems that draw supply from streams the rule sought to protect. Moreover, wetlands, which cover roughly 110 million acres in the continental U.S., filter pollution from contaminated runoff, recharge groundwater supplies, and store large volumes of flood water. Wetlands are also essential fish and wildlife habitat that can provide ecosystem services and support a robust outdoor recreation economy.
Considering the critical functions that these water bodies serve, the far-reaching ramifications that repealing the Clean Water Rule would have on them, and the previous Administration’s record of engagement on this issue, we urge EPA and the Army Corps to extend the comment period so that stakeholders have adequate time to meaningfully engage in the rulemaking process.
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
Clean Water Action
Environmental Law & Policy Center
Environmental Working Group
Green for All
Hip Hop Caucus
League of Conservation Voters
League of United Latin American Citizens
National Audubon Society
National Parks Conservation Association
Natural Resources Defense Council
Ohio Environmental Council
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Southern Environmental Law Center