Science advisory board says EPA’s WOTUS rewrite isn’t based on science

A rewrite by the Trump administration’s EPA of the Obama administration’s WOTUS rules has been criticized by an agency advisory panel.

The rules, rewritten in January were heavily criticized by Oklahoma farmers and ranchers as well as members of Congress. But the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) said this week some of the changes in the Waters of the U.S. rules under the Clean Water Act are not sufficiently based in science.

Trump’s EPA in January issued its Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which revises the definition of “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, clarifying which streams, wetlands and marshes warrant federal protections.

The rule is significantly narrower in scope than one issued by the Obama administration, and it is sure to be met with lawsuits once published according to E & E News.

In a commentary, the board took issue with, for example, the rule’s exclusion of groundwater, ephemeral streams and wetlands that connect to bodies of water below the surface.

“The proposed Rule,” the board wrote, “does not present new science to support this definition, thus the SAB finds that the proposed Rule lacks a scientific justification, while potentially introducing new risks to human and environmental health.”

EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said the agency “appreciates and respects the work and advice of the SAB” and that its concerns were raised during the public comment period on the rule.

She added, however, that the SAB is not limited by congressional authority or muddled Supreme Court decisions on the jurisdictional issue.

“The agency’s definition of ‘waters of the United States’ is informed by science,” she wrote in an email, “but science cannot dictate where to draw the line between federal and state or tribal waters, as those are legal distinctions established within the overall framework and construct of the Clean Water Act.”

The SAB offers technical and scientific advice to the agency on a wide range of rulemakings.

Source: E&E News