The Obama administration is expected to announce a new Clean Water Rule later this week which will allow governmental regulation of smaller bodies of water than it currently can. The E.P.A. and Army Corps of Engineers first jointly proposed this rule known as Waters of the U.S., under the Clean Water Act of 1972. The E.P.A has held more than 400 public meetings with outside groups and read over one million public comments while finalizing the language. Despite strong support from environmentalists, the new rule already faces fierce opposition.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 gave the federal government authority to set pollution limits in major bodies of water such as the Mississippi River and Chesapeake Bay, in addition to smaller streams and wetlands that drain into the larger water bodies. Two later Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 created legal confusion about the law. It was unclear if the federal government indeed had the authority to regulate even smaller streams and headwaters and other sources like wetlands. The E.P.A. is proposing the new rule to clarify its authority to regulate those small sources. Though it does not restore the full scope of regulatory authority from the 1972 law, it does not provide any authority to the E.P.A. beyond when was specified in the 1972 law. It is expected that the law will apply to around sixty percent of the nation’s waters. The rule will also provide authority over groundwater pollution and other sources of drinking water.
There has already been a strong showing of opposition to the rule. Farmers, property developers, fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers, oil and gas producers, and golf course owners, have all begun lobbying against the rule. Led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, they contend that the rule intrudes on the rights of property owners and will limit economic growth. Republicans in Congress are already advancing legislation to block or delay the rule.
This rule is the first of many expected from the Obama administration promoting environmental conservation. The E.P.A. is expected to release a final set of rules limiting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants this summer. President Obama is also expected to designate large land areas as protected from energy exploration and other development.
Source: New York Times