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EPA and the Army Corps' Rule to Define "Waters of the United States"

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Technical Report

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Congressional Research Service Washington United States

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On May 27, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Corps jointly announced a final rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act CWA. The rule revises regulations that have been in place for more than 25 years. Revisions are being made in light of 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings that interpreted the regulatory scope of the CWA more narrowly than the agencies and lower courts were then doing, and created uncertainty about the appropriate scope of waters protected under the CWA. According to the agencies, the new rule revises the existing administrative definition of waters of the United States consistent with the CWA, legal rulings, the agencies expertise and experience, and science concerning the interconnectedness of tributaries, wetlands, and other waters and effects of these connections on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters. Waters that are jurisdictional are subject to the multiple regulatory requirements of the CWA. Non-jurisdictional waters are not subject to those requirements.

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