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Senators Urge EPA to Drop Waters Guidance

April 26, 2013

Thirty Republican senators are pressing the Obama administration to scrap its controversial guidance for clarifying convoluted oversight of wetlands and other water resources as U.S. EPA prepares to take up a rulemaking on the issue.

The Clean Water Act guidance, which would increase the number of waters, streams and wetlands under the jurisdiction of the 1972 law, has been stalled at the White House Office of Management and Budget for more than a year. The administration has indicated that it is currently weighing whether to issue interim guidance as it proceeds with the rulemaking -- a process that could last for much of the rest of the Obama administration -- or drop the guidance altogether.

Republican senators, including David Vitter (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) yesterday pressed the administration to take the latter course.  In a letter to acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe, the Senators suggest the guidance could be struck down in the courts. They pointed to a handful of recent cases in which courts have found EPA actions on water pollution to be beyond the agency's authority.  The letter recommends that the EPA withdraw the proposed guidance and proceed with a formal rulemaking process that should not attempt to expand its statutory authority beyond that intended by Congress. The final rule should reflect the principles promulgated in recent case law and identify limits on the agency’s jurisdiction under the CWA.