EPA critizies media coverage of the new WOTUS rule
EPA reacted to some of the media coverage of the new WOTUS rule by complaining that some news reports had said the rule “erodes protection for ‘millions of miles of streams’ and wetlands.”
EPA added, “While this conveniently fits the narrative they are trying to push, it runs contrary to the facts.”
EPA noted that its officials and officials from the Army Corps of Engineers “have belabored in press releases and press calls: (T)here are no data or tools that can accurately map or quantify the scope of ‘waters of the United States.’
“This is the case today, and it was the case in 2014 when the Obama administration issued its blog titled ‘Mapping the Truth.’
“Therefore, any assertions attempting to quantify changes in the scope of waters based on these data sets are far too inaccurate and speculative to be meaningful.
“While this administration agrees that the current data and tools are insufficient, we are committed to supporting the development and improvement of the technology needed to map the nation’s aquatic resources.”
EPA continued, “As discussed on a press call today, a senior EPA official stressed this point again.”
“Here’s an example of why the maps that people seem to think show the clear status of jurisdictional waters in this country cannot be used.
“The National Hydrography Dataset, that the U.S. Geological Survey over at the U.S. Department of the Interior uses, it’s a nice tool. It has fairly high resolution and can show surface water features. The challenge is that for most parts of the country that map does not tell the difference between ephemeral and intermittent waters, other than in very limited portions of the country.
“Our rule depends on the difference between intermittent and ephemeral waters, but that tool does not see the difference and does not map the difference.
“Similarly, the National Wetlands Inventory, which is the other major tool that people have been using, does not map wetlands that match the ‘wetlands’ definition under any prior version of the (WOTUS) rule. And it also has what are called errors of omission and commission.
“In other words, it doesn’t map wetlands that are there, and it maps wetlands that are no longer there. Most importantly, it doesn’t map the jurisdictional waters. If you use those tools together, each one has errors, and so if you use them together to try to overlay the wetlands and the flowing waters, you effectively have what’s called propagation of error. It’s an inherently unreliable system, and so we do not use it.”
EPA cited some coverage it took issue with, saying “Let’s take a look at some of the offenders:”
Politico: “The Trump administration Thursday signed its long-promised regulation to remove millions of miles of streams and roughly half the country’s wetlands from federal protection, the largest rollback of the Clean Water Act since the modern law was passed in 1972 … Half the country’s wetlands could lose protection … The new rule lifts federal protections for roughly half of the country’s wetlands, according to the agency’s own internal estimates.”
E&E News: “A final rule unveiled by the Trump administration today eliminates Clean Water Act protections for the majority of the nation’s wetlands and more than 18% of streams.”
Los Angeles Times: “Federal data suggest 81% of streams in the Southwest would lose long-held protections, including tributaries to major waterways that millions of people rely on for drinking water.”
The Guardian: “About 60% of streams in the US are dry for part of the year but then connect to large rivers following rainfall. Wetlands not situated next to large rivers will also be excluded from protections. People living in the western U.S. are set to be particularly affected by the new rule, with ephemeral streams making up around 89% of Nevada’s stream miles and 94% of Arizona’s, for example.”