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Chairmen Gibbs and Harris Question EPA Efforts to Expand Clean Water Act Authorities

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Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting information on two water studies related to the Agency's efforts to expand regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

In May 2011, EPA published "Draft Guidance Regarding Identification of Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act," and submitted its final draft ("Final Guidance") to the Office of Management and Budget for review in February 2012. The letter details concerns with the scientific, technical, and legal justifications related to the guidance, particularly as they relate to the pending scientific studies. "Once issued and implemented, the EPA Final Guidance will further confuse the CWA regulatory process and significantly expand federal regulatory authority, while introducing entirely new concepts that blur the distinction between federal and state water and land use regulatory authorities," the Members said. "Moreover, corresponding actions by EPA, including two recent supporting water studies, have raised questions over the due diligence, open process, and scientific basis for the Agency's action on this issue."

The letter also criticizes the process used by EPA to advance the new changes, noting the Agency's use of Guidance circumvents the traditional rulemaking process and threatens to result in de facto new regulations that could potentially cause significant economic harm to numerous industries.

Gibbs added, "The U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers' plan to dramatically increase their own authorities under the Clean Water Act by radically expanding the scope of federal jurisdiction is unacceptable. These agencies are attempting to expand their regulatory jurisdiction from the current "waters of the U.S.' to practically any land that already is -- or one day might be -- wet. In my view, regulating puddles isn't common sense. As the U.S. economy struggles to get back on track, now is not the time to allow the EPA to expand its regulatory reach on its own initiative and impose costly, burdensome, job-destroying regulations."

Chairman Gibbs and Chairman Harris request that EPA provide comprehensive details on the scope, timeline and purpose of both studies with respect to the Draft and Final Guidance, as well as information related to cost-benefit analysis, transparency, and public participation.

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