Dems question Pruitt over centralizing water pollution authority

Dems question Pruitt over centralizing water pollution authority
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A pair of Democratic lawmakers is questioning Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE about a memo that gave him new authority to make certain determinations over water pollution standards.

The March memo took away the authority of regional EPA officials to make some calls as to whether a particular body of water can be federally controlled under the Clean Water Act, and gave that authority to Pruitt.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet EPA to abandon restrictions against chemical linked to climate change MORE (D-Del.) and Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioCongress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Progressives poised to shape agenda if Dems take back House MORE (D-Ore.) said in their Tuesday letter that the memo calls into question Pruitt’s “commitment, as EPA Administrator, to follow the law ... as well as to ensure that Clean Water Act decisions are based on established science and precedent, and conducted in a transparent manner.”

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They accused him of "sidelining" local expertise and said that Pruitt actions “appear nothing more than a power grab to consolidate absolute authority in your personal offices, with no assurance that you will follow the rule of law, science, or the precedents of the agency in exercising your statutory responsibility under the Clean Water Act to ‘restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.’”

The lawmakers, each the top Democrat on the Senate and House committees that oversee the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act, asked Pruitt for a wide range of documents and explanations related to the memo.

The March memo came as the EPA is working to repeal an Obama administration regulation that expanded the federal government’s authority over waterways under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration is also working on a new definition of federal authority that is less extensive and more industry-friendly.

The EPA defended the memo at the time, saying it doesn’t shut out regional officials.

“This memo explains that jurisdictional determinations that raise significant issues or technical difficulties should be handled in a consistent and uniform manner, particularly during the [Waters of the United States] rulemaking,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said.

"Regions will absolutely be involved in the process and work closely with the Administrator’s office when doing the work to assess jurisdiction for very select, and often rare, cases."