Greens, White House meet over water regs

A handful of environmental activists and state officials have met with Obama administration staffers in recent weeks over an effort to regulate minor ponds, streams and wetlands.

Officials from 10 conservation organizations and the state of Alaska have visited the White House in the past month to discuss the contentious Environmental Protection Agency regulations, according to recently released meeting records.

The draft rules, which are still under development, would allow the EPA to regulate smaller bodies of water under the Clean Water Act, under the thinking that they eventually lead into large lakes and rivers that are covered by the law. Environmentalists say that the new rule is necessary to protect those larger downstream bodies of water.

Republicans in Congress have fiercely opposed the effort, charging the EPA with trying to gain “unprecedented control” over nearly all bodies of water, including those on private land.

Representatives from Clean Water Action, the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Natural Resources Defense Council, Trout Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League of America, EarthJustice, the National Parks Conservation Association, Environment America and the Southern Environmental Law Center met with White House and EPA officials over four meetings from Nov. 19 to Dec. 9, according to the meeting records. Officials from Alaska’s state government met with staffers on Nov. 26.

The White House's budget office is currently reviewing the EPA's draft rule. It’s routine for the White House to host meetings with nonprofits, business groups and any other interest groups before unveiling major new regulations.

The draft rule is expected out in coming weeks, though the White House could extend its review. Once it is released, the public will have a time to comment, and the EPA can amend it before finalizing the regulation.