July 7, 2010: An Environmental Protection Agency worker looks at oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill which seeped into a marsh in Waveland, Mississippi. (CREDIT: REUTERS)
According to two Republican lawmakers on the House Science Committee, an EPA power grab will grant ‘unprecedented power over private property across the nation.” The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing through a rule that would increase the agency’s regulatory authority over streams, wetlands and other bodies under the Clean Water Act.
Reps. Lamar Smith, R-TX, and Chris Stewart, R-UT, on Friday sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy voicing their concern over the proposed draft rule, which aims to solidify the agency’s regulatory jurisdiction over different types of water bodies. The letter was sent to the Office of Management and Budget in September to be reviewed. The EPA said the scope of the proposal is limited to clearing up confusion caused by Supreme Court decisions involving the Clean Water Act.
The lawmakers say the agency is engaging in a “rushed, politicized regulatory process” and have called on the EPA to defer to the independent science advisory board to review the science underlying the proposal.
“In light of the significant implications this action would have on the economy, property rights and state sovereignty, this process must be given more thought and deliberation to allow for important, statutorily-required, weighing of the scientific and technical underpinnings of the proposed regulatory changes,” the congressman wrote.
In September, the agency released a report from its science advisory board analyzing the relationships between smaller, isolated bodies of water and larger ones. The report, which served as justification for this power grab, concluded that streams and wetlands have important effects on downstream waters.
The EPA plans to accept public comments on the draft rule before finalizing it, but the agency has not indicated whether it will comply with the lawmakers’ request to allow for an independent review of the science underpinning the rule.
“Any attempt to issue a proposed rule before completing an independent examination by the agency’s own science advisors would be to put the cart before the horse,” Smith and Stewart wrote.
In January, EPA critics and officials in Virginia scored a key victory in their legal battle with the agency over its attempt to regulate storm water runoff that some described as a land takeover.
In the case of Virginia, a federal judge ruled against the EPA and in favor of the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which challenged EPA’s restrictions on the flow of storm water into a Fairfax County creek system.
U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria agreed with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — now-Republican candidate for Virginia governor — who argued that the EPA was trying to regulate water itself as a pollutant. In his ruling, O’Grady said: “Storm water runoff is not a pollutant, so EPA is not authorized to regulate it.”
The EPA held that water, itself, can be regulated as a pollutant if there’s too much of it. The agency says heavy runoff is having a negative impact on Accotink Creek and that it has the regulatory authority to remedy the situation.