Wednesday, April 8, 2020

EPA’s final rules to protect drinking water, limit pollution stir controversy

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a new clean water rule on Wednesday that protects streams and wetlands from pollution, regulations that were praised by environmental groups but criticized by some Republicans and agricultural groups.

The clean water rule defines which waterways fall under the jurisdiction of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. The government said that in order for rivers and lakes that flow to the nation’s drinking water system to be clean, the streams and wetlands must also be protected.

Karen Hobbs, a senior policy analyst for the National Resources Defense Council, called the new rule a win for clean water. “With today's action by EPA and the Army Corps, nearly 2 million miles of the stream miles outside of Alaska -- about 60 percent - will be better protected, as will nearby waters that help feed, and are fed by, streams,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs also said that much of the 20 percent of isolated wetlands in the continental United States would also see better protections under the new rule.

In a call announcing the rule, White House senior advisor Brian Deese said the only people with reason to oppose the rule are polluters who threaten our clean water.

Critics of the EPA’s plan say the agency has overstepped its authority.

Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said, “It is incredibly disappointing and disturbing that we have come to this point.”

Shuster pointed to the fact that 70 percent of the unique, substantive public comments on the new rule were from citizens asking for the policy to be withdrawn or significantly modified.

“Although the administration has taken this action today, the Waters of the United States issue has not been resolved or fixed, and the impacts on the economy and the rights of states, local governments, and individual citizens will be significant,” Shuster said.

Some of the public comments attacking the rule came from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“While we know that farmers and ranchers were dedicated to calling for substantial changes to the rule, we have serious concerns about whether their comments were given full consideration,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.

Stallman said the rule also violates legal boundaries established for the EPA by Congress and the courts. He added that EPA’s decision to engage in an aggressive advocacy campaign tainted the deliberative and thoughtful nature of the decision-making process.

The EPA said the rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture. In a blog post, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule, “doesn’t interfere with private property rights, and it only covers water – not land use.”

Organizations in this Story

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

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