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Arizona Lawmakers Attempt to Halt EPA’s Waterways Rule


The Environmental Protection Agency is considering an update to the federal Clean Water Act. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, an Arizona congressman is trying to prevent that change from going into effect.

A bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Republican Congressman Paul Gosar accuses the EPA of federal overreach with its proposed Waters of the United States rule. Several other Republicans including Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have also voiced opposition to the EPA’s move. They claim it would harm the state’s economy by expanding federal protections over waterways that don’t flow year-round. According to Gosar, the rule change would allow the EPA to seize control of some state and private lands.

But, Ken Kopocis with the EPA’s Office of Water says the rule only clarifies the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act — something the agency was ordered to do as the result of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Actually, the rule as proposed would cover fewer types of waters than are covered by the rule today. In fact, the people that have asserted that it’s an expansion, we think, do not fully understand what’s in the proposal. We believe we are staying well within the boundaries that Congress set for us in terms of protecting waters,” Kopocis says.

According to the EPA, the science supporting the rule change shows how pollutants can be transferred between separate, seemingly unconnected waterways. But, opponents of the rule have been critical of that science, claiming it’s incomplete.

The EPA is expected to issue a final rule this spring.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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