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 BarrassoScalise: House, Senate ‘pretty close’ on tax bill Top GOP senator: House and Senate 'not that far apart' on tax bill Sunday shows preview: Republicans take victory lap on taxes MORE (R-Wyo.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (R-Texas), Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) and David VitterDavid VitterThe Senate 'ethics' committee is a black hole where allegations die Questions loom over Franken ethics probe You're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat 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."