EPA has provided the House Science Committee with detailed maps that the panel’s chairman, Lamar Smith, R-Texas, says show the agency’s “plan to control a huge amount of private property across the country” by defining the waters of the U.S. that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
EPA disputes Smith’s interpretation, saying the maps were made merely to show water resources within the U.S., including stream patterns by watershed. In a letter to Smith, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner said the agency is unaware of any maps of waters that are “jurisdictional under the CWA or that would be jurisdictional” under its proposed Waters of the U.S. rule.
But Smith isn’t buying it. And neither is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which has been one of the most vocal critics of the EPA proposal among agricultural groups.
“This is the smoking gun for agriculture,” Ashley McDonald, NCBA’s environmental counsel, said in a news release. “These maps show that EPA knew exactly what they were doing and knew exactly how expansive their proposal was before they published it.” NCBA said the maps show individual states facing upwards of 100,000 additional stream miles that could be regulated under the EPA’s proposed rule.
In two letters to Smith, in late July and early August, Stoner said the maps were originally prepared in 2005, and updated last year with data from the U.S. Geological Survey.
“It is my understanding that they were prepared (in 2005) in part to better understand the potential impacts of certain court decisions to aquatic resources, but not to depict the scope of protected under the Clean Water Act,” Stoner wrote.
Smith rejected that explanation, and in a letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy, said the maps – of the U.S., of the 50 states, and of 10 regional wetlands — must have been created with regulation in mind.
“You claim that the EPA has not yet used these maps to regulate,” Smith said in the letter. “However the EPA failed to explain why it used taxpayer money to create these maps. It is apparent that the EPA paid a private contractor to make many of these map, yet the details of the arrangement remain murky. While the agency marches forward with a rule that could fundamentally redefine Americans’ private property rights, the EPA kept these maps hidden.”
Smith asked the EPA to provide his committee with all documents and communications related to the agency’s contract with the company that created the maps, including the original contracts. He also called on the EPA to enter the maps and any previously undisclosed maps in the official docket of the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule for public review and comment. And he asked that the public comment period be kept open for at least 60 days after the maps are entered into the docket to allow adequate time for stakeholders to respond.
The comment period is currently scheduled to close Oct. 20.
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