McCain, Flake press EPA to withdraw water rule

Arizona’s senators are urging Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to scrap plans to expand the agency’s regulatory authority to smaller bodies of water.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R) and John McCain (R) join a growing chorus of GOP criticism of the EPA’s so-called Waters of the United States rule, which seeks to clarify which bodies of water the agency can regulate.

The draft rule, proposed last month, would include smaller wetlands and streams. Opponents say it could have a devastating impact, particularly on the agricultural industry, which relies on unencumbered access to those bodies of water.

“Unfortunately, the current EPA proposal dramatically expands federal jurisdiction and will likely yield only the next step in an unnecessarily iterative process and create significant regulatory uncertainty,” McCain and Flake wrote this week in a letter to McCarthy.

The lawmakers acknowledged the EPA’s decision to limit federal jurisdiction by excluding gullies, rills and swales from the definition of “waters of the U.S.,” but argued the agency should be more specific about what bodies of water would be subject to regulation.

They also contend that the EPA has underestimated the economic damage that would be wrought by the rule.

“Given the significant flaws in the proposed rule and supporting scientific analysis, we strongly urge EPA to abandon the current proposed rule and develop a meaningful proposal for evaluation that at a minimum limits federal jurisdiction and provides clarity and consistency for the regulated community,” Flake and McCain wrote.

The appeal follows a similar request made last week by roughly 200 members of the House who called on McCarthy to rescind the Waters of the U.S. regulation. Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) led that effort, though the vast majority of the signatories on the House letter hail from the Republican Party.

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