EDGI: EPA didn't provide enough information for true public comment on WOTUS rule
On February 14th, the EPA and Engineers Corps published a new rule changing the definition of “waters of the United States.” The public could comment on the new rule until April 15th. However, it’s unclear whether the public had access to enough information to make a truly informed comment.
In its public comment, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) argued the EPA did not provide sufficient resources to allow for authentic public comment on the new rule.
According to EDGI, resources previously available on the EPA website containing information on the relevant underlying science were later removed. “The EPA’s website is intended to be a trusted and easily accessible resource,” EDGI wrote. “However, beginning in May 2017, resources that the EPA formerly posted about aquatic ecosystems and the Clean Water Act itself were made less accessible, and in many cases, removed entirely.” Removed resources included introductory materials on aquatic systems, links to research reviews that support the current Rule, and pages in Spanish.
The Clean Water Act only protects waters designated “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). Under the new rule, many wetlands would not be included as WOTUS, and thus not subject to Clean Water Act protections. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, an estimated 18% of streams and 51% of wetlands would not be protected under the new rule.
“The two most important things the public needs in order to provide informed comments about the proposed WOTUS redefinition are a clear comparison of which streams and wetlands are protected under the 2015 Clean Water Rule versus which would be protected under the new Rule, and the scientific evidence supporting that change,” EDGI wrote. “Neither of these needed resources are provided.”
You can read EDGI’s full comment here.