Obama Administration to Clarify Clean Water Act

The Obama administration, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, has issued new guidelines regarding the Clean Water Act. The act, passed in 1972, seeks to limit the emission of toxic chemical into water sources and seeks to maintain acceptable levels of cleanliness for surface water. The Obama administration’s new guidelines expand the scope and mandate of the act and redefine the nature of water sources under federal protection.

Previously, the Bush administration issued guidelines that exempted many streams, wetlands, ponds, and small water sources from the act’s scope, exposing significant amounts of local water to pollution. The new guidelines would protect tradition water sources, such as navigable rivers, but would also be expanded to include wetlands, non-navigable tributaries, as well as smaller bodies of water that have a “significant nexus” to traditionally protected water sources (including “physical, chemical, or biological connections” to larger bodies of water).

Reaction to these guidelines has been mixed. Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture Frank Lucas argued that the regulations expand the power of the federal government. In a statement he claimed, “The Obama administration’s decision… builds a foundation for the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to regulate essentially any body of water, such as a farm pond or even a ditch.” Environmental groups, on the other hand, have praised the decision.

The draft will not become effective for 60 days, allowing for a comment period.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer