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Sept. 11, 2014 – In its first week back from the August recess, the U.S. House passed legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing a proposed rule to define its jurisdiction over “Waters of the United States.” The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, HR 5078, includes a provision requiring the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to consult with local officials to develop recommendations for the proposed rule, with a final report due to Congress within two years. The legislation, which is now in the Senate for consideration, has been threatened with a veto by the White House.
The interpretive rule was proposed in March by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an attempt to define the scope of waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act, but has drawn harsh criticism from farmers and ranchers who fear expanded jurisdiction of the EPA and more stringent regulation of their property. Environmental groups contend that the EPA’s proposed rule is essential for restoring Clean Water Act protections and would not expand its coverage to include any new types of waters.
Last month, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology made public a series of maps produced by the EPA that details all the waters and wetlands of each of the 50 states. In addition, agricultural groups have created an interactive mapping tool that they claim identifies the scope of waters that could fall under the EPA’s jurisdiction under the new rule. Public comments on the proposed rule may be submitted through Oct. 20, 2014.