EPA blasts ‘myths’ on water jurisdiction rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hit back Thursday after a top Republican accused it of trying to take over large pieces of private land and water.

Tom Reynolds, the agency’s top spokesman, wrote a blog post to respond to what he said were “myths and misunderstandings” about the Waters of the United States rule.

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The rule was proposed earlier this year to clarify the EPA’s jurisdiction for the Clean Water Act.

“This law has nothing to do with land use or private property rights, and our proposal does not do anything to change that,” Reynolds wrote in a blog post Thursday, referring to the Clean Water Act.

“The idea that EPA can use the Clean Water Act to execute a land grab or intrude on private property rights is simply false,” he said.

The day before the post, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, released a series of maps that he said show the EPA’s plans to expand its power over waterways.

Smith saw the maps as the smoking gun Republicans were looking for to prove that the EPA is out to take over massive privately owned areas.

“While the agency marches forward with a rule that could fundamentally re-define Americans’ private property rights, the EPA kept these maps hidden,” he said.

Reynolds said that is simply not true, statng that the maps were published in 2005 and updated in 2013 as an inventory of the nation’s water.

“These maps show generally the location of many streams, wetlands, rivers, lakes and other water bodies,” he wrote. “They serve as a tool for visualizing how water flows across our nation and in regions of the country.”

He went on to say that the maps could not possibly be used to determine the federal government’s jurisdiction. The Army Corps of Engineers has to do that with a time-intensive, on-site survey.

“EPA has never and is not now relying on maps to determine jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act,” Reynolds said.

Smith is not the only member of Congress to oppose the controversial rule. Hundreds of lawmakers, along with business groups representing agriculture, construction and others, have asked the EPA to repeal the proposal or voted for legislation to block it.