Committees demand EPA records on Clean Water rule

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, March 31, 2015 -Chairmen of three House committees are demanding documents and emails from the Environmental Protection Agency on its handling of the proposed rule for re-defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

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Among other things, the committees are asking the agency to turn over all records of communication with the Army Corps of Engineers as well as regional EPA offices, state regulatory agencies and the Small Business Administration.

In a March 27 letter to the agency, the chairmen of the Agriculture, Oversight and Government Reform, and Science, Space and Technology committees also want to know how often EPA officials have been meeting with the Corps of Engineers, which enforces the law's permitting requirements

The letter cites an article in the publication Inside EPA that said EPA was receiving only limited input from the Corps and regional offices in developing revisions to the rule proposed a year ago to define what streams, ditches, ponds and other features qualify as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) for regulation under the law.

“The article alleges that the rulemaking is largely being handled by the EPA headquarters officials,” the committee chairmen write. “This is troubling. We would caution the agency against discounting the input of offices outside the Beltway.”

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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has pledged to address concerns raised by farm groups about various definitions in the proposed rule but has not provided any specifics. Congressional Republicans say they will try to block enforcement of the rule through a fiscal 2016 appropriations bill if they can't kill it altogether with other legislation.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said in response to the letter that the agency had held had more than 400 outreach meetings to discuss the rule and to take comments.

“EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are working hard to finalize our Clean Water Rule this spring that carefully considers the concerns that are real and the solutions that are reasonable and workable,” she said. “We have listened to everyone that took the time to comment or attend meetings with us. They will see their input reflected in the final rule. “


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