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EPA Defends Clean Water Act, Critics Claim It Is Overreaching

Published: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 4:20pm
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There are several challenges to a new rule issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, dealing with the Clean Water Act.

The EPA said the rule is meant to clarify the act, after two rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, which called into question how the law applies to smaller bodies of water and streams around the country. Critics, though, accuse the agency of overreach.

Speaking last month, Ken Kopocis with the EPA Office Of Water said the rule was necessary to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, which is the nation’s premier statute to protect water quality.

"We think it’s a critical issue for protecting public health," he said. "And these are also the water bodies that feed the larger downstream water bodies. And we know that you can’t protect the larger water bodies from pollution if you don’t protect the upper water bodies that feed into them."

Kopocis said EPA is not attempting to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act and that the rule officials are replacing was actually broader in its application than the new one. He said the rule only applies to those directly affecting the waterways.

"The Clean Water Act does not affect what people do on land, it only affects what people do on the water," he said. "So if you’re not planning to put pollution or you’re not planning to fill in a water way then the Clean Water Act doesn’t apply. So, whether that water is jurisdictional or not, for someone who wants to build a home, as long as they don’t put materials into the water they’re free to do that and the Clean Water Act is irrelevant to them."

But last week, Arizona joined a number of other states in a lawsuit challenging the new rule on just those grounds. Separately, the National Association of Home Builders also sued.

Spencer Kamps is Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Home Builders of Central Arizona.

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