EPA to Republicans: You're making it 'very difficult' to do our job

A top official at the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday he is troubled by a lack of trust from Republicans concerning the EPA’s new climate rule and plan to regulate smaller bodies of water.

EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe said he is trying to “build a bridge” with Republicans.

“I can tell you my boss [EPA Administrator] Gina McCarthy would want nothing more than to build credibility with Congress,” Perciasepe said during a hearing at the House Small Business Committee.

Perciasepe plans to leave the EPA next month, but before he takes off he has been making the rounds in Congress, offering to patch things up with Republicans who are wary of the agency.

But this comes as little comfort to many Republicans, who are skeptical of the EPA’s new Waters of the U.S. rule, fearing it could lead to a massive power grab over farmland.

Perciasepe has told lawmakers before that the rule would actually “reduce” the scope of waterways the agency regulates, but based on their own reading of the rule, Republicans believe it would do the exact opposite. They say the rule would give the EPA permission to regulate small ditches in backyards, streams, and creaks. 

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) said there is a lot of “cynicism" from House Republicans toward the EPA.

"The problem your organization has is nobody believes you, you have no credibility here,” Hanna said at the hearing. 

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) commended Perciasepe for stepping into the congressional “lion’s den,” but added: "Your agency has continued to disrespect Congress, to go down your own road."

Perciasepe acknowledged the growing tensions between Republicans and the EPA. 

“This trust thing is a problem, particularly if Congress has it,” he said. “I’m here today to try to explain what our intent is and to try to build to bridge."

Perciasepe said Republicans have put the EPA in a “very difficult situation” with regards to the waters rule. 

"You know, I have a Supreme Court justice saying, ‘Why don’t the agencies do this?’” Perciasepe explained. "There are three branches of the government. I have [Congress] talking to me when I was the acting administrator, saying, ‘Please do a rulemaking,' and now I have that branch saying it should be withdrawn. I have another branch saying, ‘When is the agency going to get their act together and do a rule making?’"