GOP to EPA: Don't douse Fourth of July fireworks

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A group of Senate Republicans are worried a new Obama administration proposal would put Fourth of July fireworks displays in jeopardy.

The new rules, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, seek to clarify which of the nation's streams and wetlands are under the two agencies' jurisdiction, which some in the Senate fear could curtail lakeside festivities.

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"We are concerned, on the eve of the celebration of this great nation’s founding, that the EPA is set to foster expanded efforts to undermine this form of celebration," says a letter sent to EPA chief Gina McCarthy from 10 GOP senators.

"If finalized, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to expand the Clean Water Act’s definition of the 'waters of the United States' may enable litigious environmental groups to jeopardize fireworks displays throughout the country," the letter, spearheaded by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), adds.

Republicans in Congress have called the rules a "power grab," but the EPA has stressed the proposal does not expand protections.

The rules require that the EPA and Army Corps approve any project that might pollute the protected waterways already under their jurisdiction, keeping in place exemptions for farming, ranching and forestry practices.

But the 10 signatories claim the proposal would encourage environmental groups to challenge firework displays at lakes and recreational water areas legally.

In California, the Lake Murray July 4 fireworks show has been canceled three consecutive years due to litigation uncertainty, the letter states.

Legal uncertainty is something the new rules are expected to help clear up, according to the EPA.

At another California lake, officials came close to canceling the fireworks display this year in response to an environmental lawsuit, the letter adds.

The EPA's new rules, the senators write, will result in "costly citizen suit litigation" and "few homeowners, communities, or local organizations will be able to conduct fireworks displays as they have for decades or longer."

The Senate Republicans end the letter by calling on the EPA to withdraw the proposed rule to protect firework displays.

The Tuesday letter co-signers included Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), and John Hoeven (N.D.).