The EPA under the Obama administration has passed new rules on what waterways the Clean Water Act applies to:
The Clean Water Rule, drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, extends the Clean Water Act’s protections to all tributaries with signs of flowing water. These streams and wetlands can have a crucial effect on the health of downstream waters, agency officials say. For “drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.
This restores protections that the waterways had until rulings by the Supreme Court:
The uncertainty stems from a 2006 Supreme Court decision that concluded the act protects against illegal discharges into streams and wetlands that connect to navigable waters, but that did not define what qualified as a connection.
Republicans, of course, are against the expansion:
“The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs,” House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said in a statement.
Let’s be clear what this is about:
Granta Nakayama, who served as the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at the EPA until 2009, found that between July 2006 and March 2008 the agency had decided not to pursue formal enforcement in 304 cases because of jurisdictional uncertainty.
In 2008, in an internal memo, Nakayama wrote that the uncertainty “results in delays in enforcement and increases the resources needed to bring enforcement cases.”
And so in 2007, when an oil company discharged thousands of gallons of crude oil into Edwards Creek in Titus County, Texas, the EPA did not issue a fine, pursue legal action or even require clean up. Similarly, after a farming operation dumped manure into tributaries that fed Lake Blackshear in Georgia, the EPA did not seek to hold the polluting company responsible — despite the fact that tests showed unsafe levels of bacteria and viruses in the lake, which was regularly used for waterskiing and other recreation.
Businesses and large farmers want to be able to save money by polluting, that’s what Boehner and the Republicans are supporting.