A rare joint Congressional hearing in Washington Wednesday took up the issue of ‘Waters of the United States,’ the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to more clearly define which bodies of water qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act.
Republicans at the hearing — including Oklahoma’s senior U.S. senator and state attorney general — are convinced the move is a vast overreach of the EPA’s power that will place everything from ditches to farm ponds under government control.
Administrator Gina McCarthy explained the EPA’s action as a benign clarification of existing rules meant to reduce confusion for farmers and ranchers, not further burden them.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe wasn’t buying it.
“Agencies can only carry out the authority that Congress gives them,” Inhofe said. “They can’t create it unilaterally, and that’s what I believe is happening now.”
Later, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt weighed in, vowing a lawsuit if the rules are finalized in their current form.
“To Administrator McCarthy, who appeared before you today, I say forgive the skepticism of the states,” Pruitt said. “These reassurances are from the same administration that said, ‘If you like your health insurance you can keep your health insurance’.”
In September, J.D. Strong with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board told StateImpact he doesn’t make a habit of bashing the EPA, and some clarification would be nice, but that this proposed rule doesn’t do it.
Finalization of the rule is expected in the spring.
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