U.S. Senator Pat Toomey expressed his concerns over a proposal that would change which waterways can be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency with Cumberland County farmers Friday.
The Clean Water Act gives the EPA the right to regulate navigable bodies of water that flow between states. Toomey says the EPA proposal would dramatically expand that.
"The EPA's new rule would virtually make all outdoor water eligible for their regulation," Toomey said. "What if a farmer has a stretch of land, that every once in a great while, in a very heavy rain, develops a big puddle that stands for awhile? Are they going to come in and decide to tell him whether or not he can plant in that space?"
Thousands of miles of headwater streams and wetlands acreage in Pennsylvania and many more across the nation would have pollution and encroachment protections restored under a new Clean Water Act rule the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed Tuesday.
The rule would cover most wetlands, smaller headwater streams, and intermittent and ephemeral streams that flow only briefly following rainfalls, imposing stricter federal pollution controls.
Outlined in a 371-page document, the proposed rule aims to clear up a dozen years of regulatory confusion created by two complex U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 and directives issued by the George W. Bush administration that limited Clean Water Act jurisdiction and enforcement.
The chemical leak at Freedom Industries that left 300,000 people without water in West Virginia brings up questions in other states, like Pennsylvania, about the possibility of other water contamination catastrophes. There have been spills into Pennsylvania waterways before, and regulators say those incidents have led to more strict laws here. Regulators say a spill is less likely here than in West Virginia, but clean water advocates aren't so sure.
On Neville Island, in the Ohio River, a few miles west of downtown Pittsburgh, the eastern end of island is thick with chemical and industrial plants, belching out smoke and steam.