The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the public comment period before issuing final regulations that would expand its jurisdiction in the Clean Water Act to even include ponds and ditches on private property.
In March, the EPA began a “robust” 90-day “outreach effort” to gather input in shaping a final rule, maintaining that the directive isn’t groundbreaking but a clarification effort needed to clearly define streams and wetlands protection after Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.
Critics, though, charged that the administration embarked on an unprecedented breach of private property rights without scientific basis.
The EPA wants to cover “most” seasonal and rain-dependent streams, which account for about 60 percent of stream miles in the country, arguing they have “a considerable impact on the downstream waters.”
Wetlands “near rivers and streams” would be protected under the CWA, and “other types of waters [that] may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant.”
Overall, the EPA stated at the time of its rulemaking announcement, a third of waters in the U.S. don’t meet Clean Water Act standards.
The public comment period was supposed to end Oct. 20, and before that a June deadline was moved. The EPA is extending the most recent deadline to Nov. 14. A final rule is expected in the spring.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said he believes the comment extension “is in response to strong public opposition to it.”
“While extending the comment period to allow for more input is fine, the fact is that the EPA needs to rescind the rule. The agency is asserting jurisdiction beyond that which has been granted to it by Congress,” Hoeven said.
“The Waters of the U.S. rule will heavily burden not just farmers and ranchers, but also the energy industry, construction industry and many other industry sectors. It will also create challenges for the state of North Dakota Department of Transportation, which is working to build much needed infrastructure in western North Dakota.”
The senator said he’d continue trying “to either de-authorize the rule or defund it as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.”
GOP lawmakers have accused the EPA of massive overreach into private property rights through the new regulations.
In a September blog post, EPA official Ken Kopocis said “anytime this agency considers an action, we listen carefully to all stakeholders.”
“Before we put pen to paper on our proposal, we carefully considered the 415,000 comments we received on this issue over the past decade. Public input shaped the agencies’ views on where the Clean Water Act should apply,” Kopocis said.
“We’re not just holding meetings for the sake of it – we are listening carefully. We’ve heard from the business community that they can’t succeed without clean, reliable water supplies. We’ve heard from farmers and ranchers, who have questions and concerns about how the proposal may impact them. We’ve heard from hunters and fishermen who stress the importance of clean water to recreation and to the tourism, sporting goods, and outfitting industries that support it. All of these perspectives matter to the agencies.”