EPA chief surprised by resistance to water rule

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyCalifornia commits to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 Overnight Energy: Watchdog faults EPA over Pruitt security costs | Court walks back order on enforcing chemical plant rule | IG office to probe truck pollution study EPA unveils new Trump plan gutting Obama power plant rules MORE said she was surprised by the way that opponents attacked her agency’s attempt to redefine its jurisdiction over waterways.

In a rule released in March, the EPA proposed a new way to determine whether or not something like a stream or pond is covered under the federal Clean Water Act.


“I wasn’t surprised by the backlash. I was surprised by the focus of it,” McCarthy said Monday.

She went on to explain that what shocked her the most were charges that the EPA did not do sufficient outreach to businesses, landowners and others before putting out the March rule.

Officials previously put out a “guidance” document to try to clarify the EPA’s jurisdiction after a pair of Supreme Court cases made it unclear.

The reaction to that guidance showed that the EPA needed to propose a regulation to gather formal comments on it, she said.

McCarthy attributed what she called “confusion” over the rule to an “interpretive” rule that made it look like the EPA wants to repeal exemptions to the Clean Water Act for farmers.

“That became a confusing issue out of the gate, as if we were limiting the exemptions under agriculture,” she said at a breakfast event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Since shortly after releasing the rule, agriculture and Republicans, joined by a wide array of business interests, have blasted it as an attempt at a massive federal land grab.

They contend that the rule would massively expand federal authority over dry creek beds, ditches and even puddles.

The House voted in September to block implementation of the rule.

But McCarthy said she is moving forward on the rule, known as “waters of the United States.”

“It became a communications challenge, but we remain very confident that the comments that we’re receiving are consistent with the way in which we need to head … and that we’ll be able to get this rule over the finish line,” McCarthy said.

The EPA accepted comments on the proposal until Friday. It plans to review them and make necessary changes before making it final.