House chairman: EPA trying to control all U.S. waters

A draft regulation currently under an interagency review at the White House would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to control virtually all man-made and natural bodies of water in the country, according to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

The House Science Committee, which Smith chairs, has obtained a copy of the contentious proposal that Republicans in Congress have decried for weeks.

“If the draft rule is approved, it would allow the EPA to regulate virtually every body of water in the United States, including private and public lakes, ponds and streams,” he said in a statement. “The Obama administration’s latest power play to regulate America’s waterways is an unprecedented effort to control the use of private property.”

The regulation would clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. The EPA has indicated its intention to use the new rule to let it regulate smaller streams and wetlands that flow into larger lakes and rivers.

Environmentalists have supported that approach. They say that the agency needs to be able to protect smaller bodies of water to preserve clean waters downstream.

On Thursday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is scheduled to appear before Smith’s committee. The chairman said that she will be questioned about the agency’s “ever-expanding regulatory agenda.”

The White House started its review of the EPA proposal on Sept. 17. By law it has 90 days to perform an analysis and get input from other agencies, though the review period can be extended.

Opponents of the potential regulation say that the EPA has been rushing the draft rules. They claim that the agency should have submitted a draft report supporting the new proposal to its outside scientific advisory board for peer review before releasing it to the public in September.