EPA issues final rules protecting drinking water, streams

The EPA Wednesday afternoon issued its final rules on the “Waters of the United States”. CLICK HERE FOR THE FINAL RULE.

Read this article from the Associated Press from the Kansas City Star’s website:

WASHINGTON – Drinking water for 117 million Americans will be protected under new government rules shielding small streams, tributaries and wetlands from pollution and development, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

The rules issued Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are designed to clarify which smaller waterways fall under federal protection.

Two Supreme Court rulings had left the reach of the Clean Water Act uncertain.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule will only affect waters that have a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected. The EPA has said 60 percent of the nation’s streams and waterways are vulnerable, and these rules clarify which of those waters are protected.

The regulations would only kick in if a business or landowner takes steps to pollute or destroy those waters.

President Barack Obama said in a statement that the rule “will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable.”

The rules have already run into deep opposition from farm groups and the Republican-led Congress.

The House voted to block the regulations earlier this month, and a similar effort is underway in the Senate.

Echoing the concerns of farm groups, lawmakers have said the rules could greatly expand the reach of the clean water law and create confusion among officials in the field as to which bodies of water must be protected.

Farmers wary of more federal regulations are concerned that every stream, ditch and puddle on their private land could now be subject to federal oversight.

After the rule was released, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said his panel will consider the Senate bill to force the EPA to withdraw and rewrite the rules this summer and “continue our work to halt EPA’s unprecedented land grab.”

McCarthy has acknowledged the proposed rules issued last year were confusing and said the final rules were written to be more clear. She said the regulations don’t create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and even adds some new exemptions for artificial lakes and ponds and water-filled depressions, among other features.

These efforts were “to make clear our goal is to stay out of agriculture’s way,” McCarthy said in a blog on the EPA website.

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The American Farm Bureau issued this somewhat cautious reaction to the new rules.

Statement by Bob Stallman, President,

American Farm Bureau Federation,

Regarding EPA’s Final WOTUS Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 27, 2015 – “We are undertaking a thorough analysis of the final WOTUS rule to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency listened to the substantive comments farmers and ranchers submitted during the comment period. Based on EPA’s aggressive advocacy campaign in support of its original proposed rule—and the agency’s numerous misstatements about the content and impact of that proposal—we find little comfort in the agency’s assurances that our concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way.”

“The process used to produce this rule was flawed. The EPA’s proposal transgressed clear legal boundaries set for it by Congress and the Courts and dealt more with regulating land use than protecting our nation’s valuable water resources. EPA’s decision to mount an aggressive advocacy campaign during the comment period has tainted what should have been an open and thoughtful deliberative process. 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.”

“We expect to complete our review in the next few days. We are looking in particular at how the rule treats so-called ephemeral streams, ditches, small ponds and isolated wetlands. We will decide on an appropriate course of action once that review is complete.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt is full speed ahead in his efforts to repeal at least the new groundwater rules in this press release from his office.

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) issued the following statement today after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its finalized Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule:

“The EPA’s rule represents an unprecedented power grab by the Obama Administration that will hurt farm families, job creation, home construction, roads, and energy development in Missouri and nationwide. The Administration has no business regulating puddles, ditches, and ponds across the country. I’m working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to block the EPA’s massive takeover of private and state waters, and I’ll keep fighting to protect Missourians from the Obama Administration’s blatant overreach into their private lives and property.”

On April 30, 2015, Blunt and his colleagues introduced the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. The bipartisan legislation will ensure the protection of traditional navigable waters of the United States. It also protects farmers, ranchers and private landowners by removing isolated ponds, ditches, agriculture water, storm water, groundwater, floodwater, municipal water supply systems, wastewater management systems, and streams from the list of water impacted by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule.

Blunt has a long record of fighting the Obama Administration’s proposed WOTUS rule. In June 2014, Blunt joined U.S. Senator John Barrasso (Wyo.) and their colleagues to introduce theProtecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, legislation that would prevent the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing their March 2014 proposed rule. In March 2015, Blunt also co-sponsored an amendment that was added to the FY2016 Senate budget to stop the Obama Administration from taking over all waters in the U.S.