The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new rules which it says will provide for greater clarity regarding federal water site permitting policy.
Announced jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the rules are intended to reduce regulatory delays for certain construction projects built near defined federal waters.
EPA Acting Director Andrew Wheeler, in a statement, said the new rules will define the “difference between federal protected waterways and state protected waterways.”
Continued Wheeler: “Our simpler and clearer definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”
In essence, the new rules will reduce the number of federally regulated waterways that to date have been under the protection of the U.S. Clean Water Act.
In so doing, the EPA is altering the definition of what is regarded as “Waters of the United States,” removing wetlands unconnected to larger waterways and streams that usually flow only after rains.
The rule change will allow for more mining and oil drilling in those areas.
Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, said the new rules will replace mandates “that were likely unlawful and created significant confusion about which waters were covered by whom.”
Craig Cox, the senior vice-president for agriculture and natural resources with the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, criticized the new rules, saying that by allowing “industry to dump pollutants into these water sources,” they will allow “more contamination challenges for utilities and dirtier water for their customers.”
While lakes and ponds will remain federally protected waters, along with traditional navigable waters and their tributaries, the new rules remove groundwater, many ditches, storm water control features, and waste treatment systems from the “Waters of the United States” classification.
By Garry Boulard
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