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Friday, June 8, 2007

EPA Policy Muddies the Water

via Technology News -- Taking into consideration a decision reached last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have issued new guidelines for the protection of wetlands and bodies of water under the Clean Water Act. Critics charge that the new rules impede the organizations' ability to look at the big picture when considering how to protect wetlands. "We're really disappointed with the new guidelines," Julie Sibbing, senior program manager for wetlands and agriculture policy for the National Wildlife Federation, told TechNewsWorld. "The court decision itself left some opening for interpretation, but it seems like the [Bush] administration took every opportunity to retreat from protection in any possible way they could, and we think they retreated unacceptably, even according to what the Rapanos decision said."

Furthermore, the new guidance leads to new procedures where individual streams or ponds would be isolated in the decision-making process, meaning that a single headwater stream would have to have an adverse effect on a larger body of water, Sibbing said. While possible to prove that a headwater stream could affect the Mississippi River, for example, the new guidelines reduce the likelihood of that determination.

The combined effects of several watersheds, for example, could possibly be ignored, which can be critical to the evaluation of environmental problems. Hypoxia, for example, is a condition in which aquatic environments lose dissolved oxygen that can lead to the mass death of fish and other aquatic organisms. Pollution entering a body of water from a single stream, for example, might not lead directly to hypoxia, but pollution entering multiple streams could possibly lead to downstream hypoxia.

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