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Critics Want Clean-Water Rule Killed

Judy Fahys/KUER
Utah's farmering commuinity has joined other industries and political conservatives in criticizing the Waters of the United States rules as another example of "overreach" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They're trying to kill the reguations.

Many Utah leaders are applauding last week's federal court ruling that stymies updates to federal clean water regulations. In the end, they’re looking to the courts and Congress to kill the rules.

It might seem surprising now but groups across the political spectrum originally supported the idea of clarifying clean-water rules. That was back when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered environmental regulators to specify which waters would fall under the Clean Water Act. Environmental groups like the National Wildlife Federation saw the rules as a means of safeguarding headwaters.

“The Clean Water Act has a really valuable role in making sure that healthy streams stay healthy and that damaged streams don’t get worse, so groups like ours can bring them back to life,” says Steve Moyer, chief advocate for the national conservation group, Trout Unlimited, which also supports what are called the Waters of the U.S. definitions.

Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s final proposal is under siege by industry and conservatives, and last week a federal judge put the rule on hold nationwide. Critics say the EPA’s proposal is about not clean water but control. They contend it goes too far by including stock ponds and arroyos that fill up only during flooding.

“The biggest concern that we have is this overreach will infringe on private property rights to a degree that we’ve never see in the history of our nation,” says Randy Parker, CEO of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation.

Attorney General Sean Reyes signed Utah onto one of nine lawsuits aimed at stopping the clean-water rule. And Utahns in Congress are backing legislation to kill the regulation there. Meanwhile, Parker says it will probably take years -- and a trip back to the U.S. Supreme Court -- before the fight ends.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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