News Feature | May 14, 2014

EPA's Proposed Water Rule Bad For Energy Companies?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The EPA's controversial attempt to clarify which waters it regulates under the Clean Water Act is raising concerns in the natural gas industry. 

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA, recently argued that the EPA's proposal "would dramatically extend the agency’s reach and hurt natural-gas companies that have to build pipelines," according to The Hill

“Unilaterally broadening the scope of the Clean Water Act and the federal government’s reach into our everyday lives will have adverse effects on the economy and jobs, increase the likelihood of costly litigation, and restrict the rights landowners and local governments enjoy regarding decision-making on their own lands,” Shuster said, according to The Hill

“This is another example of a disturbing pattern of an imperial presidency that seeks to circumvent Congress,” he said. 

It would be a blow to the EPA if the energy industry fights its proposal. The powerful farm lobby has already lined up in opposition to the government effort. 

"The American Farm Bureau Federation asked its members to resist a proposed rule from the EPA that it says will impose unworkable regulations on the nation’s farms," La Junta Tribune recently reported

“This rule is an end run around congressional intent and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, alike,” Bureau President Bob Stallman said in the report. “Congress and the courts have both said that the 50 states, not EPA, have power to decide how farming and other land uses should be restricted. It’s time to ditch this rule.”

The EPA proposed a rule this year to clarify which waters it regulates under the Clean Water Act, arguing that the definition had become unclear due various court decisions. 

Those cases include U.S. v. Riverside Bayview, Rapanos v. United States, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (SWANCC), and Rapanos v. United States (Rapanos), according to a notice by the EPA's published in the Federal Register. 

Rapanos vs. United States provides an example of the kind of confusion the EPA is hoping to prevent. In this case, "a Michigan property owner filled wetlands on three parcels of property he owned, but the [government] claimed jurisdiction by alleging a hydrogeological connection between the wetlands and regulated waters," Crain's Detroit Business reported

The Supreme Court's decision in this 2006 case wound up narrowing the EPA's authority over U.S. waters.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently defended the agency's proposal in an editorial published on the Huffington Post

"Some may think that this rule will broaden the reach of EPA regulations -- but that's simply not the case. Our proposed rule will not add to or expand the scope of waters historically protected under the Clean Water Act," she said. "In the end -- the increased clarity will save us time, keep money in our pockets, cut red tape, give certainty to business, and help fulfill the Clean Water Act's original promise: to make America's waters fishable and swimmable for all."

For more on policy and politics, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "Trans Canada Keystone Oil Pipeline," shannonpatrick17 © 2013, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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