Monday, November 17, 2014

Public comment period ends on EPA water rules; Republican-led Congress vows to fight rules

The comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency's controversial proposed water rules came to an end last week. Now EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will work to finalize rules, while facing scrutiny from a GOP-led Congress that had been against the rules since they were first introduced, Chris Adams reports for McClatchy Newspapers.

"In the Senate, Republicans have agreed with House colleagues on their desire to derail the water proposal but lacked the votes to do anything about it," Adams writes. "But Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who will assume the job of majority leader in January, now has the control to advance bills similar to one introduced earlier this year that would prohibit the administration from finalizing its water rule. If the Senate does seek to derail the rule, it could result in a veto showdown with the Obama administration."

"The water rule proposal seeks to clarify what is covered by the Clean Water Act—whether certain streams that dry up part of the year, for example, should be covered along with traditional rivers, streams and lakes," Adams writes. Farmers and ranchers have expressed fear that the rules will expand EPA's jurisdiction. While EPA denies that claim, Republican leaders have supported farmers and ranchers in an attempt to kill the bill.

The proposed rules have caused plenty of confusion, and EPA chief Gina McCarthy has done little to sway fears, often only causing more confusion with her attempts to explain the rules or to criticize rural residents for not understanding them.

Currently, the Waters of the U.S. rules regulate "traditional navigable waters; interstate waters; and all other waters that could affect interstate or foreign commerce, impoundments of waters of the U.S., tributaries, the territorial seas and adjacent wetlands," says the Center for Rural Affairs.

The proposed rules would cover:
  1. Traditional navigable waters
  2. All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands
  3. The territorial seas
  4. All impoundments of water identified in 1–3 and 5
  5. All tributaries of waters identified in 1–4
  6. All waters, including wetlands, adjacent to a water identified in 1–5
  7. On a case-specific basis, other waters, including wetlands, provided that those waters alone, or in combination with other similarly situated waters, including wetlands, located in the same region, significantly affect the chemical, physical or biological integrity of a jurisdictional water identified in 1–3.
The proposed rule also covers ditches that are excavated wholly in uplands, drain only uplands and have less than perennial flow and ditches that do not contribute flow—either directly or through another water—to jurisdictional water. Also, if you have a jurisdictional water on your farm, then you might need a permit before engaging in certain activities. (Read more)

No comments: