McCarthy renames WOTUS, promises release of Clean Water Rule, RFS this spring
March 19, 2015
WICHITA — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy today told the National Farmers Union that she is renaming the Waters of the United States rule "the Clean Water Rule" and promised to release both that rule and the volumetric requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard this spring.
McCarthy made the remarks in a speech to the NFU, the most Democratic-leaning farm group and perhaps the only major farm group that has not called on EPA to abandon WOTUS.
"I want to tell you up front that I wish we had done a better job of rolling out our Clean Water Rule — from calling it WOTUS instead of the Clean Water Rule, to not being more crystal clear out of the gate about what we were and were not proposing, to not talking to all of you and others before we put out the interpretive rule."
McCarthy also said she wanted to "thank all of you at NFU."
"You never had a knee-jerk reaction," she said. "From week one to today, you have been at the table willing to engage in productive conversations. I have to say that you have not been shy, or pushovers. You have challenged us, and that's exactly why you've been so valuable to the process."
The Clean Water Rule is needed, she said, because "The spirit of this rule boils down to three simple facts."
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"First, one in three Americans get their drinking water from streams and wetlands that lack clear protection from pollution today. Second, our economy — from manufacturing and brewing to farming and ranching — can't function without clean water. And third, the species we depend on and the places we love for recreation can't survive without it."
She said EPA is getting ready to send the rule over to the Office of Management and Budget for their review, and offered a few comments on what it will and will not contain:
▪ The definition of tributaries will be narrowed.
▪ Concern about erosional features will be fixed.
▪ "The only ditches we're interested in are the ones that are natural or constructed streams — the ones that could carry pollution downstream — which have to have the amount, duration and frequency of flow to look, act, and function like a tributary."
"But one thing absolutely won't change — and that's the exclusions and exemptions for agriculture in the Clean Water Act," McCarthy said. "This rule doesn't touch them."
The RFS, McCarthy said repeatedly, is a "complicated" program and one that is "a challenge" to administer.
"We know we have to move ahead and finalize the volumes for 2014 and 2015, and start the ball rolling on 2016. We are working hard to get that done sooner rather than later," she said.
Keying off National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson's statement Sunday about renewable fuels being "the spark plug" to grow the rural economy, McCarthy said, "We know biofuels are a spark plug for rural economies."
"They're also an important part of the president's energy strategy, helping curb our dependence on foreign oil, cut carbon pollution, and drive innovation — and EPA is committed to catching up and getting the program back on track."
At a news conference, McCarthy stressed the difference between the Clean Water Rule, which she described as a "jurisdictional" issue, and the RFS, which is a regulatory decision.
The RFS is so difficult, she said, not because of the politics, but because of the changing conditions under which it operates.
"No one expected low fuel prices, and that obviously has an impact on projections being moved forward. No one expected the amount of gasoline in the market," she said.
"Times do change, and that is what challenges us every year. Every year our rules are taken to court. We have to be diligent in having the facts at our hands."
The decisions on the RFS are not political, she said, adding that the courts should see the rule as "not being dictated by anything but the law."
EPA, she said, wants to issue an RFS standard that can last over a number of years and provide certainty to the industry.
What has been hurt the most by the delay is investment, she said, adding that she is determined to create an atmosphere in which advanced biofuels can thrive.
–The Hagstrom Report