Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member David Rouzer (R-NC) today requested that the Biden Administration provide the public and the numerous impacted stakeholders a reasonable amount of time to provide input into the Administration’s plans to rewrite the federal rule defining “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.
The Graves and Rouzer letter to the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notes that the brief public comment period and the few public meetings that had all been scheduled to conclude within a month are insufficient to allow meaningful input to the process from the many Americans, farmers, businesses, communities, and others that will be regulated by the agencies.
In their letter, Graves and Rouzer state, “The Agencies’ decision to revise the definition of WOTUS (the ‘Notice’), and consequently to forgo the long-awaited clarity provided by the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, will have broad implications for farmers, homeowners, private property owners, manufacturers, small businesses, water districts, and local governments. Given the adverse impacts previously seen with overly broad interpretations, such as the flawed Obama Administration WOTUS rule, it is essential the Agencies administer a comprehensive process to solicit public feedback on the scope of the Clean Water Act jurisdiction when initiating a new rulemaking process….
“The decision to host meetings within such a short timeframe on a wide range of topics is indicative of a rushed, insincere notice-and-comment process by this Administration. A mere single month of public meetings is a woefully insufficient amount of time to collect meaningful input on a regulation that will have a profound, long-term impact on the everyday lives of American farmers, businesses, families, and our environment.
“We urge the Agencies to extend their public meeting schedule to ensure substantial public feedback and stakeholder input is collected. Therefore, we request the Agencies to provide a 60-day extension of the current 30-day comment period to provide stakeholders with adequate time to develop and submit written recommendations on the definition and implementation of a revised WOTUS rule, as has been offered by previous administrations….
“We urge the Agencies to implement a robust operation to effectively collect meaningful stakeholder outreach, as public input from stakeholders who will be most affected is crucial to any transparent rulemaking process. The Agencies need to then incorporate this feedback into the proposed and final rulemaking and provide detailed explanations and rationales as to how stakeholder concerns will be addressed.”
The Administration announced the public comment period and meetings in the Federal Register on August 4, 2021. The several announced public meetings were all scheduled within 30 days from the notice and were to occur only in an online setting, with no opportunities for business owners, landowners, farmers local officials, and other stakeholders to participate in discussions in-person. In addition to an extension of the public comment period, Graves and Rouzer also requested that additional public meetings be held. Click here to read the full letter from the Committee Republican leaders.
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