A combined ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army is expected to make easier the permitting process for water infrastructure and development projects.
The Navigable Waters Protection Rule essentially provides a new definition for how bodies of water are covered under the Clean Water Act.
The new ruling, according to Andrew Wheeler, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, will provide “much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers, landowners, and businesses to support the economy and accelerate critical infrastructure projects.”
In so doing, the agency will be redefining which bodies of water are covered under the Clear Water Act, removing in the process wetlands that are not connected to larger bodies of water as well as smaller streams that flow by the season.
The rule change, says the New York Times, is regarded as a victory for “farmers, fossil fuel producers, and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.”
The change, according to a statement by Karen Harbert, chief executive officer with the American Gas Association, will “restore the proper balance between federal and state regulation of our nation’s waters and protect our rivers, streams and lakes without stifling construction of important infrastructure.”
The Navigable Waters Protection Rule has sparked the opposition of a number of environmental and conservation groups, including the Sierra Club which said the new ruling puts “water sources for millions of people in the U.S. at risk,” while jeopardizing the ability to “counter floods, droughts, toxic algal blooms, groundwater depletion and other worsening water issues driven by the climate crisis.”
The new rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register sometime in the next two weeks, becoming officially effective 60 days after that publication.
By Garry Boulard
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