Public Input Vital to Clean Water Proposal

Ken Kopocis Ken Kopocis

At EPA, our mission is to protect human health and the environment. We follow the law and the best available science, and we always rely heavily on public input.

Anytime this agency considers an action, we listen carefully to all stakeholders. Our proposal to clarify protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act is no different.

Public input was a major reason EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule. For almost a decade, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, and the public have called for a rulemaking to protect clean water and provide greater predictabilityand consistency about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. The proposal will keep our water clean and offer the clarity they requested (See who requested a rulemaking).

Before we put pen to paper on our proposal, we carefully considered the 415,000 comments we received on this issue over the past decade. Public input shaped the agencies’ views on where the Clean Water Act should apply.

Since releasing the proposal in March, EPA and the Army Corps have conducted unprecedented outreach to a wide range of stakeholders, holding more than 340 meetings all across the country to offer information, listen to concerns, and answer questions.

The agencies have responded to every request from outside groups to discuss the proposal and reached out proactively to many organizations to offer information and meetings. EPA Administrator McCarthy herself has heard from farmers, commodity groups, hunters and sportsmen, conservationists, business leaders, and faith groups. EPA officials from Washington, D.C. traveled across the country, holding roundtables in nine states and visiting farms in states from Texas and Colorado to Pennsylvania, Arizona and Mississippi.

We’re not just holding meetings for the sake of it – we are listening carefully. We’ve heard from the business community that they can’t succeed without clean, reliable water supplies. We’ve heard from farmers and ranchers, who have questions and concerns about how the proposal may impact them. We’ve heard from hunters and fishermen who stress the importance of clean water to recreation and to the tourism, sporting goods, and outfitting industries that support it. All of these perspectives matter to the agencies.

Because public input is so vital, the agencies extended the original public comment period from 90 days to 182 days. The comment period is open until October 20, and the EPA and the Army Corps welcome input to make sure we have a strong, achievable final rule. The agencies give careful consideration to all comments and aim to publish a final rule in spring 2015.

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