The Environmental Protection Agency wants you to know exactly which waterways it plans to protect.
The agency floated draft rules Tuesday to define the bodies of water protected under the Clean Water Act. The rule brings the majority of U.S. streams and wetlands under EPA's jurisdiction. This means that any non-exempt activity with the potential to pollute protected waterways must first earn the agency's stamp of approval.
EPA says the standards will clarify its existing authority to protect water supplies, but the regulation is sure to prompt pushback from conservatives and agricultural sector stakeholders who have previously criticized the rulemaking as federal overreach.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took pains to ward off criticism ahead of the rule's release. "This rule does not expand the Clean Water Act," McCarthy said during a press call with reporters. "I repeat it does not protect any new types of water that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act."
The regulation also includes a roster of exemptions. McCarthy touted this feature of the rulemaking, saying it will make life easier for farmers. "The rule keeps intact existing Clean Water Act exemptions for agricultural activities, [and] it actually expands those exemptions," the administrator said. "This is about streamlining the process and saving money. We're providing certainty about what's in and what's out."