Bahr said that with federal regulators walking away from oversight of so much of the waters in states like Arizona, “the state does need to step up.” The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality declined comment on the new federal rule Thursday, except to say it is reviewing the proposal to “fully understand how it impacts Arizona waterways.” But, in anticipation of the new federal rule, the state has been working for some time on a Waters of Arizona definition that is aimed to fill gaps left by the federal approach and protect state waterways through a “local control approach.” Wheeler said federal officials had states in mind when they created their new plan. “Our new rule recognizes this relationship and strikes a proper balance between Washington, D.C., and the states, and clearly details which waters are subject to federal control under the Clean Water Act, and importantly, which waters fall solely under the state’s jurisdiction,” Wheeler said. That approach was hailed by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, who tweeted “good riddance” to the Obama-era WOTUS rule. “The rule gave unprecedented power to bureaucrats in D.C. at the expense of farmers, ranchers, small business owners and all Americans,” Gosar said in a statement. “Today’s announcement will provide regulatory certainty, eliminate federal overreach and balance federal protection of our Nation’s waters while empowering state autonomy over their resources.”
But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, tweeted that what he called the “#DirtyWaterRule endangers the drinking water for the millions of Arizonans and other Western residents who depend on the Colorado River.” Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, added that “clean water is a human right.” Trump first ordered a repeal of WOTUS in February 2017, just over a month after taking office, and James and Wheeler signed paperwork last September to end it. The proposal has sparked months of controversy, with more than 626,000 comments posted after the administration officially proposed a change last February, and an EPA science advisory board in a draft memo criticizing one version as being proposed without a “fully supportable scientific basis” and threatening “new risks to human and environmental health.” The Center for Biological Diversity cited 75 endangered species that could be threatened by the change, with Hartl specifically noting the yellow-billed cuckoo and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, both of which live near streams. “People and wildlife need clean water to thrive. Destroying half of our nation’s streams and wetlands will be one of Trump’s ugliest legacies,” Hartl said. For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.
Today at @NAHB, I along with @asacivilworks was proud to unveil the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule (#NWPR) implementing the original intent of congress and the #CleanWater Act while respecting the rights of states and tribes, ending decades of regulatory uncertainty. #WOTUS pic.twitter.com/shVcYqOmsN— EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler (@EPAAWheeler) January 23, 2020
This story originally appeared on Cronkite News and is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.