Rep. Hal Rogers questions EPA on rule change

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WYMT) - Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering a change to a rule under the Clean Water Act.

Representative Hal Rogers says the rule change could seriously hurt the coal industry.

EPA officials say the rule change would simply clarify existing protections for streams and wetlands.

Rogers says the rule would make it nearly impossible for coal companies to acquire permits, and calls it the 'biggest land grab in the nation's history.'

Rogers and other lawmakers questioned leaders of the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday during a House Appropriations Committee hearing.

Rogers pressed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on a proposed rule change the congressman says would expand the EPA's jurisdiction of U.S. Waterways to include "seasonal or rain-dependent" streams.

"They're wanting to extend their jurisdiction over areas where there is a stream that may not be a stream," Rogers told WYMT. "Dry beds, old beds that have been there a thousand years without a drop of water."

Rogers says that could make it impossible for coal operators to get permits, calling the rule change another case of 'government over-regulation' he argues is crippling the economy.

However, McCarthy says the rule change does not expand the types of waterways the EPA has traditionally regulated.

"This rule actually doesn't impact the permit process itself, and in fact we think it provides certainty to decrease the amount of time when you're in question as to whether you need a permit, and to decrease the amount of time you need to get through the permit process," she told lawmakers.

EPA officials say seasonal streams are critical to maintaining the integrity of navigable waters.

Rogers says he fully expects the courts to strike down the rule change.

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