IEPA urges 'expeditious' WOTUS rulemaking process

Illinois agency responds to input request from U.S. EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, making several requests.

Alec Messina, who became director of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in February, addresses the Illinois Farm Bureau board of directors in April. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)
Alec Messina, who became director of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in February, addresses the Illinois Farm Bureau board of directors in April. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo).

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s (IEPA) director has urged U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to “provide regulatory certainty regarding the definition of waters of the United States in the most expeditious time frame possible.”

“Regulatory certainty is vital, not only to those of us that are tasked with enforcing environmental regulations, but also to the regulated community that must have the ability to plan for environmental compliance while seeking to remain competitive in the current economy and provide jobs across the state,” Alec Messina, IEPA director, wrote in a letter to Pruitt and Doug Lamont, Army Corps of Engineers deputy assistant secretary.

Pruitt and Lamont asked states for their input on proposed changes to the “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule.

Lauren Lurkins, Illinois Farm Bureau’s director of environmental and natural resources, thanked IEPA for supporting the repeal effort.

“It shows a lot of leadership from our state to try to address water quality issues in a way that doesn’t adversely impact farmers,” Lurkins said.

Related: EPA, Corps plan to repeal WOTUS rule. Click here.

Illinois has more than 106,000 miles of streams and more than 90,000 lakes and ponds, Messina wrote. He urged the federal agencies to develop their own interpretation of the definition of WOTUS by reviewing congressional intent and judicial interpretations, rather than relying on one judge’s view. In addition, Illinois requested:

- Federal agencies focus on water features that are identifiable based on clear, objective characteristics to provide clarity and certainty to regulators and the public.

- A new rule provide states with clear guidelines about how to implement the terms “relatively permanent” and “continuous surface connection.”

“Strict definitions, such as those used in the Clean Water Rule, will be difficult to apply on a uniform basis across the country because of state-specific conditions,” he wrote. “Rather, the federal agencies should explore the creation of criteria and guiding principles for defining ‘waters of the United States’ that would allow states much-needed flexibility in determining whether a particular body of water is ‘relatively permanent’ or has a ‘continuous surface connection.’”

- Any revised definition should retain existing exclusions.

- Federal agencies work closely with states to take into account state-specific hydrologic and water quality issues.

“Further coordination and consultation with the regulated community would lead to a greater understanding of the specific issues affecting states, and lend further credibility to the rulemaking process, both of which would ultimately strengthen any replacement to the Clean Water Rule.”

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