GOP: EPA move 'unprecedented'

Republican leaders of the House Science Committee are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of rushing a rule to establish broad authority over streams and wetlands.

In a letter to the agency on Friday, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Chris Stewart (R-Utah) alleged that it is trying to initiate a “sweeping reinterpretation” of its jurisdiction in a potential new rule.

The regulation to expand the EPA’s oversight would give it “unprecedented control over private property across the nation,” they asserted.

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In September, the EPA began the process of asserting that it can regulate streams, estuaries and other small bodies of water under authority granted by the Clean Water Act. The agency said that the new rule is necessary to clear up confusion caused by two recent Supreme Court cases.

The EPA said making sure that regulations protecting clean water apply to those smaller waters ends up protecting larger lakes and rivers downstream.

Republican lawmakers have attacked the move and accused the agency of making a broad power grab. They worry that the EPA’s science has not been thorough enough to warrant a new rule.

“In light of the significant implications this action would have on the economy, property rights, and state sovereignty, this process must be given more thought and deliberation to allow for important, statutorily-required, weighing of the scientific and technical underpinnings of the proposed regulatory changes,” Smith and Stewart wrote on Friday.

Smith is the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and Stewart leads its environment subcommittee.

The proposal is currently under review at the White House’s budget office, where most major rules are subjected to scrutiny before being unveiled to the public.

Once the proposal is released, the EPA will accept public comments and revise the regulation before finalizing it.

The lawmakers want the EPA to give a copy of the proposal to the agency’s science advisory board, which is made up of outside experts from academia and businesses, for a thorough review.

Releasing the proposal before the board has had a chance to look at it “would be to put the cart before the horse,” they claimed in their letter.

In a statement emailed to The Hill Friday afternoon, the EPA said that it has received the lawmakers’ letter and will review it.