Regan says the needle is threading the EPA with the WOTUS rule

EPA Administrator Michael Regan defended his agency’s budget request and its “waters of the USA” rule against Republican criticism during testimony Wednesday before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

While the Supreme Court of Art pending a decision on the Sackett Clean Water Act “will have some effect on the rule,” Regan said, adding that the rule “is designed to absorb everything that the Sackett case shows.”

Republicans, including ranking members Shelley Moore Capita of West Virginia and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, questioned whywhen about half the states in the country sued over the WOTUS rule, the EPA decided to continue writing it.

Regan said, as he has done before, that when he took office a federal court struck down the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which required new rules. Also, the agency, which co-wrote the new rule with the Army Corps of Engineers, didn’t want to wait for a court to rule.

“I think we’ve threaded the needle very well,” he said, noting that it also codifies eight exemptions from the law related to agriculture.

Ricketts insisted that the CWA, which defines “navigable waters” as “waters of the United States, including the territorial sea,” covers only waters capable of transporting a vessel.

“‘Navigable’ to me means you can put a boat on it and go somewhere,” he said. “You can’t do that from a pond on a farm. You can’t do that for a roadside ditch, which is temporary.”

Regan argued that the question is more complicated. “I really wish it was that simple,” he said.

The WOTUS rule restores protections for ephemeral streams that were removed in Trump’s rule.

As for year-round E15, Regan said the agency is “excited about moving to a 2024 waiver,” citing EPA proposal to implement year-round E15 in eight states next summer. As for this summer’s sales, Regan said the agency will evaluate requests for volatility waivers “on a case-by-case basis.”

Rod Snyder, Regan’s agricultural adviser, previously said The agency was considering “all options” sale E15 summer 2023.

Regan also defended agency request for fiscal year 2024 approximately $12 billion, an increase of $1.9 billion—or 19%—compared to FY23. He disagreed with Capito’s assertion that the agency would not be able to handle the “enormous amounts of funding” the EPA received last year, including the FY23 budget increase and another $41.5 billion through the Inflation Reduction Act.

“It is simply not possible for the EPA to absorb and responsibly spend the amount of money that is being requested,” Capita said.

Unsurprisingly, Regan disagreed. “When you talk to my staff, they are very grateful for last year’s budget, but we still need significant resources,” he said.

“There are some that may indicate that we cannot absorb these increases,” he added. “It’s a tough message for people who are already overworked and working six or seven days a week.”

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