Science

EPA Water Rule Raises Private Property Concerns In Georgia

Rivers like the Chattahoochee are protected by the Clean Water Act. But for some smaller bodies of water, it's not clear whether they are protected by the Clean Water Act.
Rivers like the Chattahoochee are protected by the Clean Water Act. But for some smaller bodies of water, it's not clear whether they are protected by the Clean Water Act.
Credit Monika & Tim / flickr.com/tkennedy
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to release a new rule regulating water. The agency says it clarifies how the Clean Water Act works, but some people in Georgia worry that it threatens private property rights.

The idea of the rule, according to the federal government, is to clear up exactly what bodies of water are protected by the Clean Water Act, which regulates the release of pollutants into U.S. bodies of water and regulates quality standards for surface waters. It’s the less obvious ones that the agency is looking at – like small seasonal streams and wetlands. Should people be allowed to pollute them or fill them with dirt?  

There’s been a lot of concern, especially from farmers and from industry groups, that the rule will reach too far into private property and cover things like ditches on farms.

At a hearing earlier this year, Republican Congressman Rob Woodall, who represents Forsyth and Gwinnett, asked EPA officials why the rule was necessary.

“Can you tell me something that in your collective experience that we have failed on in Georgia?” Woodall asked. “I feel like we’re meeting that standard locally today. No one’s asking for federal help.” 

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy responded that the agency is just trying to help states understand existing rules. EPA officials have said the new rule would not include ditches on farms.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House passed a bill that would block the rule. The Senate is looking at a similar bill.

The EPA is expected to release the final version of the rule this week.

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