EPA’s New Property Grab, Private Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requesting a redefinition of the bodies of water that are under their jurisdiction for regulating pollution.

The Clean Water Act, originally passed in 1972, is the primary federal law in the United States concerning water pollution. Any area covered by this act requires a special federal permit for certain activities. Some U.S. lawmakers are worried that an expansion of the Clean Water Act would give federal officials a new world of power over private properties.

The EPA’s proposed regulation has been nicknamed, “Waters of the United States,” and has been in the works for the last eight years. Bob Perciasepe, EPA Deputy Administrator, told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that the new ruling wouldn’t reduce the scope of waters covered under the Clean Water Act, and that it “would not assert jurisdiction over any type of waters not previously protected over the past 40 years.”

The EPA’s attempt to extend its power is drawing attention from lawmakers in both parties, who are referring to the proposed ruling as a land grab. A request to withdraw the regulation was sent to the EPA by a group of 231 members from the House of Representatives. “Although your agencies have maintained that the rule is narrow and clarifies CWA jurisdiction, it in face aggressively expands federal authority under the CWA while bypassing Congress and creating unnecessary ambiguity,” the group wrote.

The House lawmakers in opposition to the regulation criticized it for being too broad. They wrote, “The rule would place features such as ditches, ephemeral drainages, ponds, prairie potholes, seeps, flood plains, and other occasionally or seasonally wet areas under federal control.

Along with the House, the Senate also has a group of lawmakers who are opposed to the EPA’s proposition. Last week, thirty Republican senators signed a bill to prevent the EPA from moving forward. The bill’s main sponsor, Senator Pat Roberts, explained that after already calling on the EPA to withdraw the proposed rule, he wanted “to make sure that the expansion of regulatory jurisdiction over ‘Waters of the United States’ is shelved for good.