Quick Links:  Phase 2 Rules  -  Water and Infrastructure Funding  -  WOTUS

Water and Infrastructure Funding
Congress has passed H.R. 3684, which was signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021.  SESWA had adopted a White Paper on Stormwater Infrastructure Funding supporting increased federal funding and greater flexibility in stormwater and related programs.  H.R. 3684 contains numerous provisions on stormwater, resiliency and water quality,  See SESWA's summary here.

Waters of the United States (WOTUS)
- See Short Summary of Impacts

WOTUS-related events are listed below in chronological order.  "2017 Revisions" refers to articles concerning the repeal or replacement of the WOTUS rules that were initiated by the Trump Administration in 2017.  "2015 Litigation" refers to articles concerning the challenges by SESWA and others to the rules adopted by the Obama Administration in 2015.

New WOTUS Rules Proposed
Waterbodies that are subject to federal jurisdiction are termed Waters of the US or “WOTUS.”  Such waters are subject to the provisions of the Clean Water Act and NPDES permitting programs, dredge and fill regulations, endangered species policies, etc.  WOTUS policy has been subject to wide fluctuations over the past 20+ years, due in part to highly variable court decisions and also policy changes from one administration to another.  Recent attempts to clarify WOTUS policy was initiated with the adoption of new regulations in 2015.  Litigation throughout the country on those regulations was still underway when a new (and very different) set of regulations were adopted in 2020.  Litigation over those regulations is still underway.

On December 7, 2021 EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a new rule to again revise the scope of Waters of the US.  The Agencies have stated that the newly proposed regulations reflect a policy that is somewhere in between the expansive set of definitions adopted in 2015 and the greatly narrowed definitions that were adopted in 2020.  More information may be found at EPA's WOTUS webpage. Comments were accepted by February 2, 2022 and can be found on the federal eRulemaking Portal at See SESWA’s comments here.  The proposed rule was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in September.  OMB review is the last step in the rule adoption process and typically takes around 90 days.

Meanwhile, US Supreme Court heard an appeal of a case seeking to clarify its 2006 ruling in Rapanos.  Sackett v. EPA asks SCOTUS when the CWA applies or does not apply to wetlands.  Oral arguments were held on October 3, 2022; so a decision should be issued in early 2023.  

See WOTUS Archive
for more information.

Phase 2 Rules
November 2016
 - EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the final MS4 General Permit Remand Rule on November 17, 2016, to satisfy a remand order from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The Final Rule embraced what came to be known as “Option 3” or the “State Choice” alternative, allowing the permitting authority to choose between two alternative means of establishing permit requirements in general MS4 permits:  First, a “comprehensive permit” approach where the full set of requirements necessary to meet the CWA goal of reducing pollutants to the maximum extent practicable (MEP) are included.  Second, a “two-step general permit,” which is a combination of a base general permit plus additional provisions needed to attain MEP.  The rule signed by the Administrator represents the most flexible alternative considered by the Agency as far as NPDES program administrators and MS4 permit holders are concerned.

December 2015 - EPA's draft regulations revising the permit criteria for small MS4 jurisdictions were published in December 2015.  SESWA submitted formal Comments to EPA concerning the proposed rules on March 21, 2016.  The Association's primary concern was that the “one size fits all” approach of Option 1 (see below) would produce a significant hardship on many of the 6,000+ Phase 2 permit holders around the country.  SESWA recommended that EPA proceed with the "State Choice Approach" as it gave the administering entity and the permitted entities the most flexibility in complying with the new requirements.  SESWA also urged EPA to delete any references using the term “effluent limitations” within the rules, as Congress intended numeric interpretation of permit compliance to be reserved for point-source discharges, not MS4s.

The rules stem from a settlement agreement between EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council where EPA agreed to publish a notice of intent to propose rulemaking by December 17, 2015 and publish a final rule by November 17, 2016.  The Agreement seeks to enforce the provisions of a 2003 order finding that the general permitting scheme of EPA’s Phase 2 MS4 rules allows small MS4s to design stormwater pollution control programs without adequate regulatory and public oversight, and violates the Clean Water Act because it does not require EPA to review the content of the MS4’s Notices of Intent to discharge.