EPA Stakes Out Authority Over Waterways

The Kishwaukee River flows through western Illinois. The Kishwaukee River flows through western Illinois. Jason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock.com

The Environmental Protection Agency wants you to know exactly which waterways it plans to protect.

The agency floated draft rules Tuesday to define the bodies of water protected under the Clean Water Act. The rule brings the majority of U.S. streams and wetlands under EPA's jurisdiction. This means that any non-exempt activity with the potential to pollute protected waterways must first earn the agency's stamp of approval.

EPA says the standards will clarify its existing authority to protect water supplies, but the regulation is sure to prompt pushback from conservatives and agricultural sector stakeholders who have previously criticized the rulemaking as federal overreach.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took pains to ward off criticism ahead of the rule's release. "This rule does not expand the Clean Water Act," McCarthy said during a press call with reporters. "I repeat it does not protect any new types of water that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act."

The regulation also includes a roster of exemptions. McCarthy touted this feature of the rulemaking, saying it will make life easier for farmers. "The rule keeps intact existing Clean Water Act exemptions for agricultural activities, [and] it actually expands those exemptions," the administrator said. "This is about streamlining the process and saving money. We're providing certainty about what's in and what's out."

The standards drew quick praise from environmental heavyweights and sportsmen's groups alike. 

"The Sierra Club applauds the Obama administration for this effort to restore a common-sense approach to protecting our nation's lakes, rivers and streams. Clean water is an undeniable necessity for the health of our families, our environment, and our economy," Michael Brune, the club's executive director Club, said. 

"The waters affected by today's proposal provide vital spawning and rearing habitat for trout and salmon. Simply stated, the proposal will make fishing better, and anglers should support it," said Trout Unlimited president and CEO Chris Wood.

EPA has been working to clarify its Clean Water Act authority after Supreme Court rulings handed down in 2001 and 2006 raised questions as to just how far agency protections extended. The proposed regulation unveiled this week—commonly known as the "waters of the United States" rule—was delivered to the White House for review last September. It will be subject to a 90-day public-comment period after it appears in the Federal Register.

(Image via Jason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.