Corps Refrains from Adding More Restrictions, Limits on Use of General Permits
In a notable victory for the business community, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) last week published its final nationwide permit (NWP) rule. This rule reissues the 50 existing Clean Water Act (CWA) permits that are set to expire on March 18, and adds two new permits and one new general condition. The timely reissuance of an efficient and streamlined general permit process was informed by extensive feedback from AGC and its industry allies. AGC’s effective advocacy work – including a 14-page comment letter and a meeting with the regulator leading the permit reissuance effort – had a positive impact on the final 2017 NWP package.
Early on, AGC was concerned when the Corps’ proposal considered changes in the impact limits and notification requirements for certain nationwide permits. The Corps also sought comment on the relationship between the nationwide permit program and the 2015 revisions to the definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ (which dictates the scope of the federal control and CWA permitting responsibility). Also high on AGC’s radar, were possible changes in how compensatory mitigation is conducted and changes in the Corps’ use of waiver provisions. Despite a strong push from the environmentalist community to reduce the acreage limits, making less projects eligible for nationwide permits and forcing them into the much more arduous individual permit category, the Corps held the limits steady. The Corps also removed references to the 2015 changes to the definition of Waters of the US, which is currently stayed nationwide by order of a District court while the many lawsuits over this rule proceed.
Nationwide permits are valid for five years; however, if your project is currently under construction, or is under contract to commence prior to March 18, 2017, you can obtain a one-year extension to complete the project under the existing permit authorization. If that is not the case, you will need to request authorization under a new permit (i.e., renew the nationwide permit during construction or secure individual permit coverage). Next, AGC Chapters and members may wish to engage in the regional conditioning process that is currently underway at the Corps district level. For more information, look here.
For more information, contact Scott Berry at [email protected] or (703) 837-5321.