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Efforts continue to quell the backlash over President Donald Trump’s changing statements on the Russia summit. Also on the Thursday rundown: protestors are out for Mike Pence’s visit to Missouri; and nobody wants to go, but one option is green burials.

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New Clean Water Rule: Beached Before Enactment?

PHOTO: Whether some wetlands should receive Clean Water Act protections is one facet of a potential rule change, now being put forward for public comment. Photo of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge by James Lyles, U.S. Geological Survey.
PHOTO: Whether some wetlands should receive Clean Water Act protections is one facet of a potential rule change, now being put forward for public comment. Photo of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge by James Lyles, U.S. Geological Survey.
June 24, 2014

SEATTLE - It's federal budget time, and just as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are in the middle of rule-making to clarify what is specifically covered by the Clean Water Act, there's a proposal in the nation's capitol to cut EPA funding.

At question this week in the U.S. Senate is how the EPA interprets and enforces the law. Attorney Jannette Brimmer, who handles water cases in the Pacific Northwest for Earthjustice, sees the debate as ironic. She says the proposed rules appear to be more strict, and says they would offer the certainty that industry and farmers say they need.

"Contrary to a lot of the propaganda that is flying around out there, this is not an expansion of the reach of the Clean Water Act," says Brimmer. "It is, in fact, a contraction in line with what the U.S. Supreme Court has directed over the last 10 years or so."

Critics of the EPA say more specific Clean Water Act definitions aren't needed and could affect business or private landowners. But the group Environment Washington supports the change. In a new report, the organization estimated that in 2012 more than two million pounds of chemical waste from industrial sources ended up in Washington waterways.

Steve Moyer, vice president for government affairs with Trout Unlimited, points out the proposal to clarify the reach of the Clean Water Act is up for public comment through October. His sportsman's group is among those arguing the timing is wrong for a funding cut to the EPA.

"Let the process play out first and see what the agencies decide to do," says Moyer. "Don't cut off at the knees the process that the agencies are going through right now."

The questions being addressed in the current round of rule-making include whether small, headwater streams that don't flow year-round, and wetlands that aren't adjacent to rivers or streams, should have Clean Water Act protection if they're not technically "waterways."

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA