The Regulatory Integrity Protection Act would roll back a new regulation that redefines “waters of the United States.” The regulation both expands the list of bodies of water that would be covered by the Clean Water Act and also carves out new exceptions for certain land used for agriculture. The proposed bill was passed by the House and awaits committee assignment in the Senate.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA9), the the sponsor of the bill, as well as other proponents of H.R. 1732 such as Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH8), say the rule over-regulates smaller bodies of water, to the detriment of farmers and small businesses (Shuster's and Boehner's statements). To prevent this the bill would require that the rule be rewritten, and includes a series of expectations before a new rule may be proposed. Included in these are the requirements that the Army and EPA, which jointly issued the rule, wait at least 180 days for public comments on the revised rule. Environmentalist organizations such as Environment America find that the expansion of the definition is a necessary change to better maintain a clean water supply, and so they hope to prevent H.R. 1732 from becoming law.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on May 12, 2015.
Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015
(Sec. 2) This bill requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw, within 30 days, the proposed rule, "Definition of 'Waters of the United States' Under the Clean Water Act," dated April 21, 2014, describing the water bodies that fall under the scope of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act), as well as any final rule based on the proposed rule.
(Sec. 3) The Army Corps and the EPA must develop a new proposed rule to define the term, "waters of the United States" as used in that Act. In developing the new rule, the Army Corps and the EPA must meet requirements concerning consultation with states and localities enumerated in this bill. The new rule must specifically identify those waters covered and not covered by the Clean Water Act and incorporate the areas and issues where consensus was reached by the interested parties.
The Army Corps and the EPA must prepare a report with details about the new proposed rule and its development, including: (1) explanations of how the rule addresses public comments filed on certain related rules and reports and addresses recommendations provided in the consultation process; and (2) comprehensive regulatory and economic impact analyses of how the rule will impact interested parties and each program under the Clean Water Act.
The Army Corps and the EPA must: (1) publish the report, a description of the areas and issues where consensus was reached with the state and local officials consulted, and the new proposed rule; and (2) make them available for public review and comment for at least 180 days.
(Sec. 5) Within 90 days of issuing a final rule to define the term, the EPA must determine whether each permit program administered by states under the Clean Water Act's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, the program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, and the program regulating the disposal of sewage sludge is in compliance with the rule. States are given two years to bring any noncompliant programs into compliance before the EPA withdraws approval of the state program.