Obama’s Latest Environmental Action: A New Water Rule

In a controversial use of executive power, the Obama administration has finalized a set of environmental regulations expanding its authority over the nation’s waterways.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers announced the Clean Water Rule, intended to protect the nation’s streams and wetlands from “pollution and degradation.”

In a press release, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the finalization of the rule is a historic step in protecting the nation’s water resources.

“Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts.” McCarthy stated in the press release. “Which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”

Daren Bakst, research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation, believes the finalized rule is ambiguous, and will inadvertently affect property owners, making it difficult for many to use their land.

“This final rule does not provide clarity,” Bakst said. “Instead, it creates more confusion. It doesn’t have to be confusing. It is because agencies have consistently stretched the definition of ‘the waters of the United States.’ There are ways to come up with very clear definitions, so people can understand how to comply with the law.”

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, released a statement expressing the concerns of American farmers over the finalized rule.

“The process used to produce this rule was flawed,” Stallman said in the release. “The EPA’s proposal transgressed clear legal boundaries set for it by Congress and the courts and dealt more with regulating land use than protecting our nation’s valuable water resources.”

However, supporters of the administration’s decision say the rule would restore protection to 60 percent of America’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, praised the finalized rule.

“We applaud President Obama for taking these common sense steps to ensure our waterways stay clean,” Pica said in a press release.

Earlier this month the House of Representatives approved a bill that would block the rule from being implemented.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., co-sponsored a bipartisan piece of legislation, along with 30 other senators, that would direct the Obama administration to “set clear limits on federal regulation of water” and “require consultation with states.”

The rule is set to take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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