EPA chief slams critics for ‘misinformation’

Critics of the Environmental Protection Agency's water jurisdiction rule are spreading misinformation, the agency's chief said Monday.

McCarthy said the rule was proposed in March to clarify Clean Water Act protections for 60 percent of the nation’s streams and wetlands, since two court decisions made it unclear.

"As with everything EPA does these days, there is some misinformation out there, confusing what our plan is all about," McCarthy said at a conference of water quality officials in New Orleans.

“Some say we’re trying to regulate every puddle on your lawn,”

“This summer, we even heard we would somehow cancel Fourth of July fireworks,” she said. “Please.”

The House voted this month to prohibit the EPA from working on the rule, which would redefine the agency’s authority over small waterways and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Conservatives and their allies in agriculture, construction and other industries have charged that the rule would amount to a massive land grab by the federal government, forcing property owners to apply for permits for projects like digging ditches or building fences.

McCarthy said the rule, known as “waters of the United States,” is “foundational” to water quality management and urged attendees to file comments on the proposal before Oct. 20.

McCarthy outlined the changing landscape of water pollution control, citing this summer’s drinking water crisis in Toledo, Ohio, as an example.

“Last month, nearly half a million people in Toledo, Ohio, couldn’t drink their water,” she said.

She went on to say that the Toledo crisis showed two larger problems in water quality: nutrient pollution feeding toxic algae and water infrastructure that is falling apart, and will require $635 billion in repairs over the next 20 years.

But McCarthy also raised climate change as a new issue for water, bringing “warmer temperatures, rising seas, and harsher droughts and storms.” She called for new water infrastructure to be “climate-ready,” and prepared for impacts of a changing climate, such as harsher storms and more flooding.

“Whether it’s climate change, nutrient pollution or strengthening legal protections for clean water, we can’t afford more Toledos,” she said.