House leaders criticize EPA plan on U.S. waters definition

By Derrick Cain

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WASHINGTON, March 5, 2014 - Two top House lawmakers wrote a letter today to President Obama expressing concern over EPA's plan to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

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House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said the EPA action represents the administration's “recent push to dramatically expand federal jurisdiction over waters and wet areas in the United States.”

In the letter, the lawmakers said the administration's attempt to “unilaterally broaden” the scope of the Clean Water Act and the federal government's reach into Americans' everyday lives could have serious consequences for the nation's economy, as well as the rights of states, local governments, and individuals.

“Regulation of the nation's waters must be done in a manner that responsibly protects the environment without an unnecessary and costly expansion of the federal government in order to prevent unreasonable and burdensome regulations and to protect small businesses, farmers, and families,” the letter said.

After years of confusion over what qualifies a body of water for federal protection under the Clean Water Act, EPA announced last year that it sent a draft rule to the Office of Management and Budget to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States” and its jurisdiction over them. The draft rule is based on a report EPA released in September on connected waters. The report, “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters,” describes factors that influence water connectivity and how connected waters affect downstream waters.

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