Wednesday, August 17, 2022

A Visual Depiction of Clean Water Act Changes

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Zoom in on your farm or ranch and see how proposed changes could impact EPA jurisdiction.

by Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — A House committee is pressuring EPA to release more information about an October 2013 agency contract to create waters and wetlands maps of all 50 states, including making those maps part of the official record on the proposed Clean Water Act rule.

Along with posting EPA maps to its website Wednesday, House Science Space and Technology Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, asked EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to release other documents related to the agency's spending of taxpayer dollars to hire a consultant to develop the maps.

In a July hearing, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe told the committee the agency would release the maps to the committee. McCarthy has stated publicly that the agency doesn't intend to use the maps to regulate waters. In the letter sent Wednesday, however, Smith questioned EPA's intentions.

Maps of all 50 states and a national map were posted in PDF format. The files are very large and provide information about those waters defined in the proposed rule.

EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed in April to redefine “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. According to the Federal Register posting, the definition used includes: “Traditional navigable waters; interstate waters, including interstate wetlands; the territorial seas; impoundments of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, including interstate wetlands, the territorial seas, and tributaries, as defined as such waters; tributaries, as defined, of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, or the territorial seas; and adjacent waters, including adjacent wetlands.”

The U.S. map released Wednesday effectively shows most of the country would face new potential regulatory demands because of the way EPA and Army Corps include tributaries in its rule. Yet, all perennial, intermittent and ephemeral streams would be part of the rule because they are considered tributaries that are “physically and chemically connected” downstream to traditional navigable waters. That's the case even though intermittent streams only flow part of the year and ephemeral streams only flow after heavy rainfalls.

Maps released Wednesday show the prevalence of intermittent and ephemeral streams across the country that would come under the scope of the rule. Out of 7,339,124 miles of streams across the country, 77{ba1edae1e6da4446a8482f505d60d3b8e379ff6dedafe596d9ba4611a4e33a48}, or 5.66 million miles, are considered either intermittent or ephemeral.

“These maps show the EPA's plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country,” Smith said in the letter. “Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA's desire to minimize the importance of these maps. But the EPA's posturing cannot explain away the alarming content of these documents. It's time to give Americans a chance to make up their own minds about the EPA's intentions.

“You claim that the EPA has not yet used these maps to regulate. However, the EPA failed to explain why it used taxpayer money to create these maps. It is apparent that the EPA paid a private contractor to make many of these maps, yet the details of the arrangement remain murky. While the agency marches forward with a rule that could fundamentally re-define Americans' private property rights, the EPA kept these maps hidden.

“Serious questions remain regarding the EPA's underlying motivations for creating such highly detailed maps. The maps were created just days after the EPA announced the rule and show its sweeping scope. The EPA's job is to regulate. The maps must have been created with this purpose in mind.”

Smith said in the letter that EPA should provide documents and communications related to the EPA's contract with INDUS Corporation to create the maps, to include original contracts, specifications of work, and internal or external exchanges regarding the October 2013 maps. In addition, the committee is asking for the maps to be entered into the official rulemaking docket.

Though EPA already has extended the public comment period by 90 days to Oct. 21, Smith asked McCarthy to keep the public comment period open for “at least 60 days” after the maps are made part of the record.

A number of agriculture interest groups are scheduled to release a set of maps of their own next week.

See additional DTN coverage here, http://tinyurl.com/…

Read the Smith letter to McCarthy, http://tinyurl.com/…

Access EPA's state waters maps, http://tinyurl.com/…

 

© Copyright 2014 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp

 

 

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