Senators: Obama misleading country on EPA’s water rule

A group of 25 Republican senators accused the Obama administration Thursday of misleading Americans about the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s forthcoming Waters of the United States rule.

The EPA, which promptly pushed back against the assertions, says its so-called “WOTUS” rule will merely clarify the agency’s regulation over streams and smaller bodies of water, granted by the Clean Water Act.

But the lawmakers, led by Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick Overnight Regulation: EPA misses smog rule deadline | Search is on for new HHS chief | ACLU sues over abortion pill restrictions | Justices weigh gerrymandering Price resignation sets off frenzy of speculation over replacement MORE (R-Wyo.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets MORE (R-Texas), Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.) and David VitterDavid VitterYou're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator MORE (R-La.), say the administration is intentionally concealing the breadth of the regulation.

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They say the rule would give the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers almost unlimited power over state and local waters, including those that are isolated from navigable waters controlled by the statute.

“Undoubtedly, there is a disconnect between regulatory reality and the Administration’s utopian view of the proposed ‘waters of the United States’ rule,” the lawmakers wrote. “For the record, we note here the ways in which the Administration has manipulated this rulemaking in ways that appear to be designed to prejudge the outcome.”

In particular, the senators take issue with the administration’s position that the rule responds to previous requests for a Clean Water Act rulemaking and accuse officials of “insinuating that opposition to the proposed rule is equivalent to opposition to clean water.”

Further, they charge that the EPA has sought to “delegitimize” concerns about the proposed rule, while misrepresenting the likely impacts of the rule.

In response to the accusations, EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said Thursday that the proposal is meant to ensure that all streams and wetlands are protected equally from pollution.

She said the agency has gone to lengths to hear from all concerned parties — even extending the public comment period for the rule — and stressed that it would have no effect on normal farming practices.

“Our proposal will ensure that the thousands of businesses across the country, ranging from hunting and fishing to the high tech sector, continue to have access to clean water that they depend on,” she said. “When we protect waterways, we free up businesses and communities to invest their dollars on other resources rather than cleaning up polluted waterways."