THE Environmental Protection Agency continues to face criticism over its waters of the U.S. rule as well as the rule-making and comment gathering process.
In May, the veil was first lifted on how EPA conducted its rule-making process for a rule that is supposed to help "clear up" which waters the federal government considers jurisdictional.
Reports indicated that EPA engaged in grassroots solicitation with groups such as Sierra Club to generate public comments in support of its rule-making.
EPA consistently claimed that it had received more than 1 million comments on the water rule and that about 90% were supportive.
However, according the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, only 20,567 of those comments were considered "unique," and of those, only 10% were considered substantive.
The vast majority of comments — more than 98% — appeared to be mass mailings generated by EPA's lobbying efforts.
Now, EPA may have to defend those actions as more than 100 members of the House have asked the EPA Office of the Inspector General to open a formal investigation into EPA's lobbying efforts to promote its rule-making and determine whether any federal anti-lobbying laws were broken.
Both the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee and the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee received internal documents from the Corps revealing some of the concerns many members of Congress and agricultural groups have voiced about how the water rule's expanded federal control over land and water is not supported by the experience and expertise of the agencies.
Maj. Gen. John Peabody, the Corps' deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations, wrote in an April 27 letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works: "The draft final rule continues to depart significantly from the version provided for public comments, and the Corps' recommendations in relation to our serious concerns have gone unaddressed. Specifically, the current draft final rule contradicts long-standing and well-established legal principles, ... especially the decisive Rapanos Supreme Court decision. The rule's contradictions with legal principles generate multiple legal and technical consequences that, in the view of the Corps, would be fatal to the rule in its current form."
Ongoing lawsuits offer some hope that EPA can be made to stand up for its actions instead of just ramming more regulations down the throats of those in the countryside.