Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Revised Clean Water Act rules sent to Office of Management and Budget for review

The Obama administration on Friday sent revised Clean Water Act rules for review to the Office of Management and Budget, Philip Brasher reports for Agri-Pulse. Proposed changes to current Waters of the U.S. rules had caused confusion and received criticism from farmers, ranchers and some Republicans in Congress who feared the rules would expand Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction. EPA chief Gina McCarthy said the revised rules would clear up confusion.

McCarthy, who did not publicly release any changes made to the rules, wrote on her blog: “We've worked hard to reach a final version that works for everyone—while protecting clean water,” Brasher writes. McCarthy did say in testimony to Congress and in a speech last month to the National Farmers Union "that the changes will provide tighter definitions of what streams, ditches and other features constitute 'waters of the United States' that the law is supposed to regulate."

McCarthy said in her post "that the final rule would provide a 'better description of what connections are important' for a stream, ditch or pond to have a 'significant nexus' with a navigable body of water," Brasher writes. "The final rule would 'refine the definition' of tributaries to ensure that erosion in a farmer's field wouldn't qualify, she said. The final rule will ensure there are 'bright lines around exactly what we mean' by a tributary."

"McCarthy also promised more specificity in the definition of the term 'other waters' and for ditches," Brasher writes. "The final rule will only regulate ditches that 'function like tributaries and can carry pollution downstream—like those constructed out of streams. Our proposal talked about upland ditches, and we got feedback that the word ‘upland' was confusing, so we'll approach ditches from another angle,' she said." (Read more)

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