Energy & Environment

EPA administrator: We don’t plan to return ‘verbatim’ to Obama-era water regulation

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan said Wednesday that he doesn’t plan to return “verbatim” to the Obama administration’s rule on what types of waterways receive federal protections. 

The Obama-era Waters of the United States rule expanded the types of waterways that are regulated by federal law. The Trump administration rolled back protections for streams and other smaller bodies of water. 

“We don’t have any intention of going back to the original Obama Waters of the U.S. verbatim and we don’t necessarily agree with everything that was in the Trump administration’s version as well. We’ve learned lessons from both, we’ve seen complexities in both and we’ve determined that both rules did not necessarily listen to the will of the people,” Regan said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. 

“We’ve got to think about what the appropriate way to move forward is, and I’ve pledged to the environmental community, the [agriculture] community and the like that we’ll chart a path forward on waters of the U.S. that will be inclusive and forward looking,” he added in response to a question from Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah). 

Environmentalists have pushed for more stringent water regulations and argued that the Trump administration’s rule allowed smaller bodies of water that flow into larger water sources to be contaminated. 

However, many farmers believe the Obama-era rule was too burdensome and overreaching. 

During the hearing, Regan also pledged to move quickly to set a national drinking water standard for chemicals belonging to a class called PFAS that have been linked to cancers and other health issues. 

“We are moving in an expedited fashion because the states need some certainty and quite frankly our military and companies need some certainty,” Regan said of a PFAS drinking water standard. 

He didn’t directly answer Rep. Chellie Pingree’s (D-Maine) question about how long it would take to develop the standard, instead saying his staff would circle back with her. 

Regan added that the agency is building on some of the Trump administration’s work on the issue, which he said “did not move fast enough.”

He also called the administration’s request for $75 million to speed up research to inform PFAS regulation “just a drop in the bucket” and said that cleaning up PFAS will require even more money. 

“The state of Minnesota estimates that it could cost 250 million to 1.2 billion dollars to clean up in this area and North Carolina has some similar numbers,” Regan said. “This is just a tip of the iceberg, and we hope to do more.”

Tags Chellie Pingree chemicals Chris Stewart Michael Regan PFAS Water Waters of the United States

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