President Trump’s February 28, 2017, Executive Order (E.O.) directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to rescind and replace the Clean Water Rule (CWR) is the latest development in the attempt to resolve the long-standing question of which surface waters and wetlands may be federally regulated and subjected to permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Critics of the CWR assert that it would have drastically expanded the reach of the CWA and created regulatory uncertainty around land features and water features that were not previously considered WOTUS, such as dry creek beds, ditches, and isolated wetlands. Since 2011, pesticide applications into, over, or near WOTUS are permitted under the CWA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program due to a 2009 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruling. Agricultural producers and pesticide applicators have opposed the permitting largely on the grounds that it is duplicative and unnecessary to regulate pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Although the CWR would have arguably expanded the scope of the waters requiring pesticide permitting, the replacement or elimination of the CWR will not end NPDES requirements for pesticides. Opponents continue to push for legislation that would eliminate all CWA permitting for FIFRA-compliant pesticide applications. More details on the NPDES permit for pesticides is available in our blog item EPA Issues Final 2016 NPDES Pesticide General Permit.
Additional information on the anticipated fate of WOTUS, as well as a summary and comparison of some of the key concepts and provisions within the CWR are available in our memorandum What’s Next for “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS)?