Saturday, August 19, 2017

EPA chief says final clean water rule will narrow definition of tributaries

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy said the government is set to finalize its clean water rule this spring and that the end product will clarify exactly the kinds of streams and wetlands that need protection.

The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a clean water rule to protect critical streams and wetlands that are vulnerable to pollution and provide a third of the nation’s drinking water. On April 3, the draft rule was sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

McCarthy, in a speech Monday to the National Water Policy Forum in Washington D.C., said the EPA heard broad-based feedback that the definition of tributaries was too vague and all-encompassing.

“I can see how folks worried we might be painting tributaries with too broad a brush. So we’re considering ways to narrow that definition and make sure there are bright lines around exactly what we mean: what’s in, what needs to be protected, and what’s out,” McCarthy said.

Some groups have said the EPA’s definitions could be interpreted to include the conveyances, aqueducts, and canals that water agencies use to do their jobs every day, McCarthy said. “The final will be a lot more clear -- I promise you,” she added.

Some Republicans say the proposed water rule would significantly broaden the federal government’s power to regulate waters and adjacent lands, which would undermine the federal-state regulatory partnership envisioned by Congress under the Clean Water Act. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH) introduced legislation this week to require the withdrawal of President Barack Obama’s proposed Waters of the United States rule.

“The administration’s proposed rule and its regulatory fallout will have real economic costs and consequences for states, local governments, farmers, builders, other stakeholders and private citizens,” Shuster said.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), said the rule is part of the EPA’s massive and continuing overreach that could force landowners to face exorbitant permitting costs, red tape and even loss of property use for landowners. 

"This could happen even when the land or water in question has no impact on navigable or interstate waters meant to be protected under the law, including virtually every farm ditch and pond in this country,” Conaway said.

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