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Advocate says new clean water rules will protect Arizona, but Republicans say they go too far

 

water-620New federal rules designed to better protect small streams, tributaries and wetlands ai??i?? and the drinking water of 117 million Americans ai??i?? are being praised by environmentalists as a victory for clean water and criticized by Republicans and farm groups as going too far.

Reflecting the views of other environmentalists, Bret Fanshaw of Environment Arizona described todayai??i??s action by the Obama administration as ai???the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.ai??i??ai??i??

ai???The water in Arizonaai??i??s rivers that we raft, fish, boat and drink from can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,ai??i??ai??i?? he said.

Fanshaw said Environment Arizona, among those pushing for restored stream protections for much of the last decade, has gathered more than 10,000 comments during the past year from Arizonans and held hundreds of face-to-face conversations about the need to close the loophole in the Clean Water Act.

ai???Arizonans clearly support actions to ensure we have clean water today and for future generations,ai??? he said. ai???With so many Arizona waterways at risk of pollution, the public really stepped up to voice their concerns.ai???

The White House says the rules, issued today, will provide much-needed clarity for landowners about which waterways must be protected against pollution and development. But House Speaker John Boehner declared they will send ai???landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.ai???

The rules, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, aim to clarify which smaller waterways fall under federal protection after two Supreme Court rulings left the reach of the CleanAi??Water Act uncertain. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the waters affected would be only those with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected.

The Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 left 60 percent of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands without clear federal protection, according to EPA, causing confusion for landowners and government officials.

The new rules would kick in and force a permitting process only if a business or landowner took steps to pollute or destroy covered waters.

EPA says the rules will help landowners understand exactly which waters fall under the CleanAi??Water Act. For example, a tributary must show evidence of flowing water to be protected ai??i?? such as a bank or a high water mark.

President Barack Obama said that while providing that clarity for business and industry, the rules ai???will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable.ai???

There is deep opposition from the Republican-led Congress and from farmers and other landowners concerned that every stream, ditch and puddle on their private land could now be subject to federal oversight. The House voted to block the regulations earlier this month, and a Senate panel is planning to consider a similar bill this summer.

House Speaker Boehner called the rules ai???a raw and tyrannical power grab.ai???

EPA’s McCarthy has acknowledged the proposed regulations last year were confusing, and she said the final rules were written to be clearer. She said the regulations don’t create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and even add new exemptions for artificial lakes and ponds and water-filled depressions from construction, among other features.

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