By Julian Hattem - 11/06/13 01:39 PM EST
Green organizations are cheering an attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to solidify its authority over smaller streams and wetlands.
The period for the public to comment on the agency’s draft report, which makes the case for new rules, ends on Wednesday. The agency has received more than 100,000 comments on the study.
Environmentalists agree with the EPA that oversight of those waters is necessary to protect the larger water sources.
“For too long these vital water bodies have been without Clean Water Act protection and have been at risk of contamination,” a coalition of organizations including the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and League of Conservation Voters said in a statement. “We are glad that EPA has restarted this stalled process and urge the Agency to release the proposed rule quickly.”
Business groups and Republicans in Congress have opposed the EPA’s move, which they call an unprecedented “power grab” that could give it power to interfere with private lands. They say that the agency’s scientific research has not been thorough enough to warrant a new regulation.
On Wednesday, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Chris Stewart (R-Utah) sent a letter to the White House’s budget office alleging that the EPA was “rushing forward” with its effort to issue the new regulation.
“Such unrestrained federal intrusion poses a serious threat to private property rights, state sovereignty and economic growth,” they wrote.
Smith is the chairman of the House Science Committee and Stewart leads its Environment subcommittee.
The same day that the EPA’s science report was released to the public in September, a draft regulation was submitted to the White House budget office for an interagency review. The White House has until mid-December to release that proposal to the public, though the analysis could be delayed.
Republican lawmakers say that the EPA’s outside science advisory board should have been given an opportunity to review the draft rule before it went to the White House.
“By rushing through this process, the Agency not only violates the law, but ignores its commitments to Congress and the American people. This rushed rulemaking is a clear attempt to rubber stamp the pre-determined regulatory agenda,” they wrote.
The environmental groups have pledged to support the EPA.
On Wednesday, they said that they “are ready to mobilize each and every one” of their members behind the agency.
“We will let the Administration know that we plan to hold them accountable to the millions of people who believe that it’s time to protect small streams and wetlands across the country,” they said.
The EPA says that the new regulations are necessary to clear up confusion about its authority under the Clean Water Act.
-- This story was updated with additional information at 4:32 p.m.