The federal government shutdown has delayed a comment period for a proposed rule that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in December. The rule would replace the Clean Water Act’s definition of “waters of the United States” set by the Obama administration in 2015. The EPA aims to clarify the difference between federally-protected waterways and state-protected waterways, which it says will help landowners determine whether they need a federal permit to do projects on their property. The EPA has decided to wait until Congress funds the agency to begin a 60-day comment period during which the public may submit written feedback about the rule.
Proposed rules are preliminary versions of a prospective federal agency regulation. If an agency determines that a new regulation is necessary, the agency develops a proposed rule for publication in the Federal Register. After a period of public comment, the agency may determine to revise the proposed rule, abandon the proposal, or move forward to the final rule stage of the rulemaking process.