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The proposed changes to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over national bodies of water has sparked controversy, with various organizations claiming that the federal agency is trying to carry out a "power grab." In response to the EPA's proposed clarification of its authority over waters, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and 14 of his colleagues have sent a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, calling for an extended public consultation on the matter.
The proposed rule states that the EPA should be regulating smaller U.S. water resources, including areas of run off and small irrigation ditches, claiming that water from them ends up in navigable waterways which are already under the EPA's regulation. However, the letter signed by Senate Republicans states that there is hardly any legal or scientific basis for such an extension and requests a maximum comment period in which input from all affected sides would be heard, including miners, farmers, construction workers and manufacturers. The authors of the letter argue that the new rule would be an obstacle to economic growth, as it would put a further administrative burden on businesses from a wide range of sectors.
According to the EPA the new rule is necessary because of the existing contradictory rulings by the Supreme Court, which make it hard to understand the types of waterways the agency can regulate under the Clean Water Act. But the group of senators claim that the rule will not resolve this problem as the proposal itself is vague, the letter says.