NPCA submitted the following position on H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, when the bill was considered on the floor of the House in May 2015.
The EPA and Army Corps have spent years talking to the public, including state and local governments, about providing clarity to which water bodies will be covered by state and federal law. After being asked to propose a rule by stakeholders from all sides, the EPA and Army Corps did so last spring and have received nearly one million comments regarding what they proposed. Many of these comments suggest substantive changes on how to define what a water of the United States is. The EPA and Army Corps have incorporated many of the suggestions in the rule now pending.
The bill the House is considering upends the existing, traditional rulemaking process by requiring the rule be withdrawn even before the House has the chance to review the amended version based on stakeholder feedback. It then asks for another, redundant stakeholder process be put in place to produce a rule accomplishing the same goals as the one now being finalized. Repeating the process again only wastes time and taxpayer resources.
For years the Clean Water Act protected all wetlands and tributaries in and around national parks. However, many of these wetlands, small streams, and lakes have been at increased risk of pollution and destruction following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 (SWANCC) and 2006 (Rapanos). This lack of protection has taken its toll, especially for wetlands and intermittent and headwater streams, slowing permitting decisions for responsible development, and reducing protections for drinking water supplies and critical habitat. More than half of our national parks, like Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Colonial National Historical Park, and Rock Creek Park, have waters that are impaired and polluted. Over 117 million Americans, including many visitors to national parks, get their drinking water from these surface waters.
Protecting and restoring wetlands and streams is critical to protecting the waters in our national parks. Healthy wetlands improve water quality by filtering polluted runoff from farm fields and city streets that otherwise would flow into rivers, streams, and water bodies across the country. Wetlands and tributaries provide vital habitat to wildlife, waterfowl, and fish, reduce flooding, and provide clean water for fishing, swimming, and paddling in national parks.
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Senior Director of Environmental Policy and Climate Change, Government Affairs