Ricardo Lopez Jr. of the Pueblo Chieftain reports:
On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaces the Waters of the United States Act approved by the Obama administration in 2015.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis immediately denounced the move, calling it a plan “to gut federal clean water protections.”
The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters…
“In Colorado, we value our clean water. Our rivers, streams, and lakes serve as the lifeblood of our communities and help support our thriving outdoor and agriculture industries,” Polis said Thursday. “Our administration will continue to reject attempts by the Trump administration to gut proven ways to protect our health and environment.”
The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb:
Federal agencies on Thursday finalized a new clean-water rule that supporters including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton say provides much-needed regulatory certainty.
But opponents, including the administration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, say it will result in the weakest protections since the passage of the Clean Water Act nearly a half a century ago…
Last April, the Polis administration and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted joint comments on the rule proposal that was finalized this week. Their letter said that as with many western states, the large majority of Colorado’s stream miles are intermittent or ephemeral. [Pols emphasis] The state said the proposal would shrink federal jurisdiction far below guidance issued in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration “to a smaller number of Colorado waters” than what presidential administrations have required since the Clean Water Act’s passage. While many ephemeral waters aren’t jurisdictional under the 2008 guidance, the new rule categorically excludes them from jurisdiction, “regardless of their connection to downstream waters,” the state wrote.
Although the new rule is intended to resolve “uncertainty” over the extent of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction, meaning continued special-interest grumbling and court challenges since the Obama administration passed the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule, this rollback is particularly bad for arid Western states. The seasonality of precipitation and overall scarcity of water here compared to states east of the “20 inch isohyet” means many ephemeral waterways which most certainly can contribute to water pollution in “navigable” bodies of water covered by the Act will lose their federal protection.
It’s a classic case of choosing economic interests over environmental protection, and it works against both Rep. Scott Tipton’s and Sen. Cory Gardner’s claims to be different from other Republicans on conservation–or at least attuned to how these issues differ in the state they represent from other regions of the country. The only people this new rule should make happy are those who benefit financially from being able to pollute small bodies of water with impunity.
And it’s hard to imagine that being a majority of Colorado voters.