WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2015 — EPA chief Gina McCarthy had few, if any, definitive answers on the impending Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule today at a House Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing on the agency’s budget for fiscal 2016.

McCarthy said her agency had been grappling with how to “identify those streams, tributaries (and) wetlands that feed into navigable waterways” — what the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers' proposed rule refers to as “significant nexuses” — but didn’t give any indication of how those waterways would be defined.  

According to the proposed rule, significant nexuses qualify as “waters of the U.S.,” and therefore, are subject to Clean Water Act protections.

McCarthy testified that once those nexuses were identified, the EPA would ensure that they did not contribute to the degradation of navigable waters.

McCarthy said changes are being made to the proposed rule released in March. Those changes, she said, would resolve concerns over intent, language and the “uncertainties” created by “the case-by-case decisions being made,” in reference to the significant nexus provision of the proposed rule.

“We’ll work through those issues… in terms of how people were reading the rule… so the final rule addresses some of those uncertainties.”

McCarthy said earlier this month that she’s hoping the final rule will be released this spring.


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