Dear Acting Assistant Administrator Stoner, Assistant Secretary Darcy, and Under Secretary Bonnie:
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) respectfully request the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) extend the comment period for the agencies’ Proposed Rule Defining “Waters of the United States” Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), which was published on April 21, 2014 (“WOTUS proposal”). Specifically, we ask the agencies to extend the comment period for at least an additional 90 days or 90 days after EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) finalizes its report on the “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters” (“Connectivity Study”), whichever is later. In addition, we request the agencies extend the comment period on the Notice of Availability Regarding the Exemption from Permitting Under Section 404(f)(1)(A) of the Clean Water Act to Certain Agricultural Conservation Practices, 79 Fed Reg 22,276 (April 21, 2014) (“Interpretive Rule”) to coincide with the close of the comment period for the WOTUS proposal.
The proposed changes to the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” will impact the full breadth of CWA programs including the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), total maximum daily load (TMDL) and other water quality standards programs, and Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) programs. Moreover, both the WOTUS proposal and the Interpretive Rule will significantly impact state regulatory programs and other state agency programs and responsibilities. Because of the scope of potential impacts on state programs, as well as the complexity of the scientific, legal, and technical elements of this proposal, additional time is needed to adequately respond to the agencies’ proposals. In addition, the Connectivity Study, which the agencies have relied upon in the development of this proposal, remains to be finalized by EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). State agencies and other parties impacted by this proposal would benefit greatly from the opportunity to examine the final work of the SAB.
Additional time is also needed to adequately study and prepare comments on the agencies’ Interpretive Rule. The Interpretive Rule has raised a number of questions among state agencies, especially regarding the relationship between state programs, EPA and Army Corps regulatory programs, and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs. Because both the WOTUS proposal and the Interpretive Rule were published simultaneously, a 45 day comment period is inadequate to prepare informed comments on the Interpretive Rule.
We appreciate your consideration of this request, and we look forward to continuing dialogue with your agencies on these rulemakings. Please do not hesitate contacting us if we can provide additional information on this request.
Chief Executive Officer
National Association of State Departments of
National Association of State Foresters (NASF)