News Feature | February 11, 2014

Leaked EPA Water Regs Draft Raises Concern

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A leaked draft of a controversial EPA proposal has stirred up questions and concerns with water policy stakeholders. 

The EPA is writing a rule to clarify the definition of "waters of the United States" for the sake of regulatory certainty, potentially bringing a greater scope of waters under its authority.

A leaked draft has been scoured by stakeholders. Bloomberg BNA described what could be gleaned from the document. 

"The draft rule, which is due out in proposed form this year, seeks to clarify the definition of 'waters of the United States' subject to Clean Water Act protections and would include most natural and artificial tributaries as well as wetlands that are adjacent to or neighboring to larger downstream waters," the report said. 

Some stakeholders contend that the draft proposal is a cause for concern.

"The farm bureau is among the groups charging that the language in the draft proposal amounts to an overreach by the federal government into the regulation of water bodies that should be left up to the states," the report said. 

But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told farmers last month that the draft is no more than that: a draft. 

“We have been assured by the EPA that the draft rule that was leaked, that was unfortunately leaked, does not necessarily reflect the position of the EPA,” Vilsack said in the BNA piece. “We need to wait and see what comes out of EPA.”

The EPA has made clarifying the definition of "waters of the United States" a top priority this year. The agency said in a statement of its agenda for 2014 that the scope waters protected under the clean water act has become "an issue of considerable debate and uncertainty."  The definition would benefit from "additional clarification through rulemaking," the statement said. Check out an EPA science report on this issue here

Republicans see the effort as "a massive regulatory power grab under the Clean Water Act,” as Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) put it in a press release

Image credit: "Environmental Protection Agency EPA," © 2007 mccready, used under a Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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