Sen. Tom Carper sent a letter Sept. 6 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting information on EPA’s development of its proposal to repeal and replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the United States.
Recent reporting by The New York Times reveals that political appointees at EPA directed career scientists to delete the rule’s $500 million in economic benefits from the regulatory package that the agency submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.
The 2015 Clean Water Rule, developed over years of consultation with stakeholders and extensive economic analysis, projected that the rule would cost between $236.7 and $465 million each year, but would provide at least $554.9 to $572.3 million in annual benefits, including $501.2 million in benefits to wetlands. However, The New York Times report states, “EPA employees say that in mid-June, as Mr. Pruitt prepared a proposal to reverse the rule, they were told by his deputies to produce a new analysis of the rule — one that stripped away the half-billion-dollar economic benefits associated with protecting wetlands.”
Discussions with individuals with first-hand knowledge of the process provided Carper and his staff with additional detail, including direction given by EPA political appointees to career staff in response to OMB’s concerns that Pruitt’s EPA had initially submitted documents to OMB showing that the benefits of the original 2015 Clean Water Rule outweighed its costs. Career staff were never told to undertake any new analysis, but, instead, were directed to simply delete the benefits of the rule from the finalized version of the information submitted to OMB.
Carper requested that EPA provide, among other things, copies of all documents submitted by EPA to OMB in 2017 that describe the costs and benefits associated with the Clean Water Rule, as well as copies of all documents sent or received by EPA political appointees in 2017 that are related to the inter-agency and OMB review of costs and benefits of the Clean Water Rule.
“Erasing the scientific and economic benefits of a rule designed to protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans will not erase the environmental and public health risk that the drinking water sources may pose if the rule is repealed,” Carper said.
The text of the letter is available at bit.ly/2eL1aRD.