EPA’s Proposed Waterways Rule Draws Ire of Arizona’s Senators

Dec 8, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency is revising the Clean Water Act to clarify which waters are protected. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, both of Arizona’s U.S. senators see the agency’s move as an expansion of federal environmental regulation that could harm the state’s economy.

Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake recently sent a letter to the head of the EPA outlining their criticisms. They say the agency would take control waterways that don’t flow year-round, restricting potential development, industry and agriculture. They also say the regulations could hamper efforts in preventing wildfires.

The senators claim the science used to justify the rule change was incomplete. Flake says there’s little proof of the EPA’s assertion that pollution in those dry waterways would have any impact on separate downstream waters.

“They have, I think, put this rule far ahead of peer-reviewed evidence. This regulation — this overregulation by the federal government really impacts the state in a negative way,” Flake says.

But, Ken Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water, says the proposed rule was heavily vetted and included bipartisan input.

“Our office of research and development created a scientific document on how waters are connected to each other. They reviewed over 1,000 already peer-reviewed papers, books and other documents in support of drawing their conclusions,” Kopocis says.

After two Supreme Court cases, the EPA was ordered to clarify exactly which U.S. waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. The agency will consider nearly 700,000 public comments before issuing a final rule.