The Hill: EPA sends controversial water pollution rule to White House

EPA sends controversial water pollution rule to White House

By Timothy Cama – 04/06/15 12:15 PM EDT. Published in The Hill.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday sent to the White House its controversial regulation to redefine the extent of its authority over water pollution control.

EPA head Gina McCarthy said the final version of the rule reflects some changes the agency made to the regulation that had been cast as a massive land grab by Republicans, agricultural interests and others.

While the administration is mostly keeping quiet about the final version of the rule, McCarthy outlined some points Monday in a blog post with Jo-Ellen Darcy, who oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, which is developing the rule with the EPA.

“In the final rule, people will see that we made changes based on those comments, consistent with the law and the science,” they wrote. “We’ve worked hard to reach a final version that works for everyone — while protecting clean water.”

Specifically, McCarthy and Darcy said the new rule will better define which bodies of water, tributaries, wetlands and other features are covered, while better ensuring that ditches, agricultural practices and municipal storm sewer systems are not covered.

“The public will see that the agencies listened carefully and made changes based on their input,” they said. “That’s how an open and collaborative process works — so we can ensure everyone’s voices are heard, in a way that follows the law and the latest science. Our mission is to uphold that commitment to the American people.”

In the year since it was proposed, the regulation has been the subject of multiple congressional hearings, sharp criticisms and legislative proposals from Republicans, agriculture groups, developers and others who charge that the Obama administration is trying to exert control over puddles, ditches and dry creek beds.

The EPA and its allies contend that the regulation would not significantly expand the agency’s jurisdiction, and said it is necessary to provide certainty and clarification following a pair of unclear Supreme Court decisions.

The federal government’s jurisdiction is important, because it could require companies and individuals to get federal permits for any actions that could harm covered waterways.

Review by the White House Office of Management and Budget is the final step before the rule can be unveiled and made final in the coming months.

Later this week, McCarthy will travel to Minneapolis–Saint Paul in Minnesota and to Dallas for a pair of events aimed at promoting the EPA’s water pollution control efforts and the Waters of the United States rule specifically, an EPA spokeswoman said.

She’ll tour the St. Paul Regional Water Services Treatment Plant with the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

McCarthy will celebrate Dallas’s win last year of the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation by helping break ground on an educational facility centered around efficient use of water.

Tags: ,