Attorneys General from seven states and the District of Columbia this week signed on to a letter supporting the EPA's Waters of the U.S. proposal, suggesting the agency's revisions will lead to greater clarity and set a strong floor for protecting interconnected waters.
The supporting group consisted largely of Northeastern representation, including Attorneys General from New York, Connecticut, Deleware, Maryland, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. Washington and Illinois Attorneys General also signed on.
Comments were submitted to the heads of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works Office. The Waters of the U.S. proposal was issued by both offices in March to clarify the scope of waters under Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
In the letter, the Attorneys General say the revisions have scientific footing that demonstrate connectivity of waters via tributaries and wetlands.
Because of these connections, the group says, physical, chemical, and biological pollution from upstream waters often impacts the health of associated downstream waters.
The group also said the EPA proposal allows basic consistency and effectiveness in water pollution control among states, protecting downstream states from the effects of unregulated discharges from upstream states.
In addition, the rule addresses the current confusion and disagreements in the courts regarding the application of the Clean Water Act, the Attorneys General continue. States need this legal clarity to efficiently and confidently administer their water protection programs, they say.
"This proposal will protect our states’ hard-earned gains in water protection by ensuring that all states share responsibility for clean water," New York Attorney General Schneiderman said in a statement. "The degradation of waters in upstream states can increase flooding, add pollution, damage hunting and fishing habitat, and foul the drinking water supplies of their downstream neighbors."
Farm groups largely oppose the WOTUS proposal due to concerns that it will result in additional permitting for farming and ranching activities on private land. Others argue that it also may inhibit states' rights by disallowing the state to regulate waters within its boundaries.
Stakeholders may comment on the proposed WOTUS rule until Oct. 20.