The nation’s top environmental regulator stopped in Utah Tuesday to talk about clean water. He heard ideas from state officials and industry about revamping a controversial regulation.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is going state-to-state, talking about what’s called the “Waters of the United States” rule.
He told reporters: “Waters of the United States rule that was adopted in 2015 was a rule that literally – and this is not editorial comment – created jurisdiction of the EPA over drainage ditches, puddles, dry creek beds across the country.”
Like 30 other states, Utah says the Obama administration overstepped its authority and wants the rule scrapped. The Trump administration agrees and has already set a plan in motion to scrap it. Now Pruitt is working on a replacement.
“What we’re hearing from is from realtors and homebuilders and farmers and ranchers and private property owners across the state of Utah and other states,” said Pruitt, “on how we can deal with those issues and provide objective clarity” about what lakes and streams are under federal jurisdiction.
Pruitt toured sites in Summit County Tuesday morning. Then he met with three dozen officials and industry representatives at the State Capitol. Representatives from the environmental community were absent from that meeting. But Randy Parker of the Utah Farm Bureau was there, and he was happy about what he heard.
“We can do both; we can have both,” said Parker. “Both the administrator and Governor Herbert both said we can protect the environment. We don’t have to kill the economy in doing that.”
Pruitt also told Governor Gary Herbert he’s reconsidering an EPA decision last year that forces Rocky Mountain Power to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new pollution controls on two coal-fired power plants. Environmentalists had pushed for those controls to clear up haze in nearby national parks.