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Alaska Joins Lawsuit Challenging EPA and the Corps on New “Water” Rule


June 29 2015
Monday PM

(SitNews) - Governor Bill Walker (I-AK) announced today that the State of Alaska will join North Dakota and 10 other states in challenging the recently finalized “waters of the United States” rule adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps). The new rule attempts to define what waters are covered by the Clean Water Act, resulting in the need for a federal permit. However, instead of clarifying federal law, the rule has left states with more questions.

“This final rule will likely have detrimental impacts on development in Alaska,” said Governor Walker. “In addition to being incredibly expansive, the rule is also unclear. It will only lead to more expensive permitting and legal fights over ‘what is in’ and ‘what is out’ under the federal law.”

The new rule expands what falls under federal jurisdiction by automatically sweeping up “adjacent” or “neighboring” waters and wetlands within a certain geographic limit to downstream waters already covered by federal law. Additionally, if “adjacent” or “neighboring” water extends into the set geographic limit by even a few feet, the entire water body or wetland is subject to federal jurisdiction and permitting. By virtue of Alaska’s unique and abundant water and wetland areas, many adjacent or neighboring waters will fall within the rule, regardless of their connection to downstream waters.

“Alaska has over 174 million acres of wetlands, and more coastline and wetlands than all of the Lower 48 combined,” said Governor Walker. “While not all of these waters are covered by the Clean Water Act, we have long protected these important resources under statutory and regulatory authorities. This new rule just creates confusion and unnecessary bureaucracy for our state.”

According to the states’ complaint, problems with the new rule not only include the substance of the rule, but also the way it came about. Under the Clean Water Act, Congress recognizes the primary responsibility of the state to prevent pollution and plan the development and use of water resources within its borders. However, despite the significant effects this rule has on state sovereign authority, the EPA and the Corps failed to meaningfully consult with the states in the development of the rule.

“This rule came about under a muddled process which failed to consider information specific to Alaska,” said Governor Walker. “By overlooking our state’s unique circumstances, the rulemaking fails to disclose the regulatory and economic impacts it will have on Alaska, which is required by law.”

In a speech last week on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) outlined the wide range of threats to Alaska posed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s new “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which significantly expands the EPA’s ability to regulate more of Alaska’s land and water.

The rule includes provisions that give EPA control over areas within 4,000 feet of a jurisdictional “water”– using a dubious methodology, said Murkowkski, that fails to take into account the on-the-ground reality for states like Alaska. The rule poses additional obstacles to responsible economic development and private construction in Interior areas like Fairbanks and coastal areas like Juneau. At the same time, it will significantly hike costs and delay renewable hydropower projects in Southeast Alaska.

Murkowski, who blocked funding for this overreaching rule as Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, articulated the economic threats the flawed rule would pose in countless ways statewide.

Murkowski said in her speech on the Senate floor last week, “The E.P.A. claims this rule is a clarification to provide certainty and predictability as to where clean air permits are required. But the view of so many Alaskans and really around the country is that this rule is far beyond a simple clarification because it substantially increases EPA’s regulatory reach. It will subject countless new projects to permitting requirements that will be difficult to satisfy, increasing both costs and certainly increasing project delays."

“The application that the WOTUS rule will have in Alaska is expansive, it's negative, and it is something that I have described as a show stopper in the past. And none of the changes in the final rule alter that description. If anything, they just serve to reinforce it. The rule really was a show stopper when it was drafted, it remains at least as bad and damaging today," said Murkowski.



Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


On the Web:

Download the Complaint (PDF)


Source of News:

Office of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker

Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski


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Stories In The News
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