Colorado urges thoughtful revision to federal rule to protect its streams and wetlands
Feb. 7, 2022 (DENVER)—Attorney General Phil Weiser today urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider additions and revisions to a proposed update to a federal rule that protects Colorado streams and wetlands from pollution under the Clean Water Act.
The definition of “waters of the United States” that are protected under the Clean Water Act has changed throughout the past decade. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers requested comments this year as part of a new rulemaking to update this key definition under the Clean Water Act.
“As a headwaters state that relies on safe water for agriculture, recreation, and survival, Colorado is keenly aware of how vital water quality protection is to our state,” Weiser said. “The agencies have the chance through this rulemaking to return to a more legally sound definition, and to work with stakeholders to develop a rule that would provide long-term clarity.”
The 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which Colorado previously filed a lawsuit opposing, left many of Colorado’s streams vulnerable to pollution. While today’s letter supports a return to the former 2008 guidance that offered more protection, Weiser also urges the agencies to ensure the new rule provides additional certainty for our state’s agricultural producers.
Nearly half of Colorado’s acreage is dedicated to farming, ranching, and other agricultural operations. To make the most responsible and productive decisions, farmers and ranchers must have certainty about whether their lands include jurisdictional waters.
Other recommendations in the letter include ensuring that the new rule fully protects the physical, biological, and chemical integrity of the nation’s waters, by clarifying the criteria that are utilized by federal agencies when making jurisdictional decisions.
The letter also asks the agencies to expressly recognize the language of Clean Water Act § 101(g) regarding the primary authority of states over water management and to make clear that nothing in the rule can alter or impair states’ rights or obligations under interstate water compacts.