WASHINGTON – Members of Congress continue to wrestle with the Environmental Protection Agency over clarification about what the agency has the authority to regulate.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified Thursday before the House Agriculture Committee to clarify aspects of the Clean Water Act, which many politicians say is a drastic overreach by the organization.
“This rule is simply the result of EPA ignoring stakeholders, including states, other federal agencies and the American people, in order to egregiously and vastly expand its jurisdiction,” Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, chair of the House Agriculture Committee, said. “This rule is already tied up in the court system, and I would imagine it will be there for many years.”
The 1972 Clean Water Act made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant into “navigable” waters, unless a permit is obtained. Confusion lingers on what constitutes navigable waters, particularly water on private property. Fines and other penalties are handed out to those who do pollute.
American farmers and ranchers believe the EPA is attacking them, without the credit they deserve for voluntary conservation techniques they’ve used for years, Conaway said.
“This is about us reaching a common goal and not telling us,” Rep. Walz, D-Minn., said. “Perceived reality is reality, and a lot of people feel that way.”
Several members of the committee echoed the sentiments of the chairman during a three-hour hearing, claiming that farmers want clean water, but are against the Clean Water Act and the provisions it tries to enforce.
“Over 30 states have sued you over this,” Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio., said. “You ought to pay attention to that.”
The EPA has worked to make the rule clearer to farmers and ranchers, McCarthy said.
“Could somebody like a farmer be penalized, and face legal action and have to defend himself on a question of water on his own land?” Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., asked.
Many committee members were curious about why their constituents have been penalized for pollution of ponds or streams on private property, if the water was only accessible to them.
“I will honestly tell you, in my heart of hearts, we worked very hard on this rule to make the clarity you need, so that you as a farmer can actually be assured that if someone asks that question you know the answer,” McCarthy replied.
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