Cartwright joins PennEnviroment to support EPA wetlands rule
BRENDAN GIBBONS, STAFF WRITER
A proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would extend crucial protection to Pennsylvania wetlands, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright said Friday.
Mr. Cartwright, D-17, Moosic, joined PennEnvironment Director David Masur to express support for the EPA’s rule at a Friday press conference at the Lackawanna Heritage Valley headquarters in Scranton.
“Our wetlands are nature’s first line of defense against storms and flooding, and we need to protect them for the future,” Mr. Masur said.
The rule proposed in April 2014 would extend Clean Water Act protection to 50,000 acres of Pennsylvania wetlands that are now exempt through a “loophole,” he said. Mr. Cartwright called it the “biggest step forward for clean water in over a decade.”
According to the EPA, the rule would clarify that most seasonal and rain-dependent streams and wetlands near rivers and streams are protected. Other waters with less certain connections to downstream water will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Anyone who wants to discharge substances to, alter or encroach on waterways or wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act must receive a permit from at least one regulatory agency.
The EPA argues the rule would clear uncertainties created by two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.
However, the EPA’s actions face stiff opposition in the U.S. House from those who support industries that would rather see the current regulatory scheme continue, Mr. Cartwright said.
Farmers and developers have been most opposed to what has been dubbed the “waters of the U.S. rule,” arguing that it places undue restrictions on private land.
The Republican-controlled House will likely pass legislation opposing the rule, Mr. Cartwright said, placing the battle in the hands of the Senate.
He and Mr. Masur called on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey to support the EPA. In July, Mr. Casey and 12 other senators drafted a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking for more information on how the rule would affect farmers.
Casey spokeswoman Alex Miller sent a statement Friday declaring Mr. Casey’s support for Pennsylvanians’ rights to clean water and air but did not declare a position on the proposed rule.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey declared his position when he wrote a letter to Ms. McCarthy in April 2014. An announcement on his Senate Web page called the rule “a terrifying power grab.”
The EPA anticipates announcing the final version of the rule by the end of the month.