On January 23, 2020, EPA issued a news release to “correct the record” regarding the recently released rule defining “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). Responding to negative press is not new for the Trump administration’s EPA. For example, see my November 18, 2019 Alert, EPA Responds to NY Times Article on Evidence Used for Health Rules.
Estimates Not Supported by Data
The WOTUS news release specifically responded to press reports that the new rule would remove federal protection for “half” (Politico) or a “majority” (E&E News) of the country’s wetlands, or that “81% of streams in the Southwest would lose long-held protections” (Los Angeles Times).
According to EPA, none of these statements can be accurate, because no reliable estimate currently exists for the extent of streams or wetlands covered by the current rule. With no reliable estimate as to what might have been covered by the old rule, the WOTUS news release says estimates of the effect of the new rule “are far too inaccurate and speculative to be meaningful.”
Waters Excluded from Federal Control
The WOTUS news release also gives a short, understandable summary of some of the waters not subject to federal control under the new WOTUS rule:
- features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall;
- many ditches, including most farm and roadside ditches;
- prior converted cropland;
- farm and stock watering ponds; and
- waste treatment systems.
To see the release, which includes links to other EPA documents relating to the WOTUS rule, https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/correcting-record-media-erroneously-claims-epa-and-army-jeopardize-wetlands-stream