Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Federal Water Protections Expand as Missouri Finally Moves on Old Requirements (Print)

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Federal Water Protections Expand as Missouri Finally Moves on Old Requirements (Print)

Article excerpt

Just as Missouri was making strides toward complying with decades- old federal regulations governing the state's streams, wetlands and lakes, the administration of President Barack Obama set the bar even higher.

New federal rules, intended to clarify which waterways fall under federal jurisdiction, were finalized Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.

The state now may have to take another look at which streams it protects under federal law.

"We're just caught up the way it used to have been," said former Missouri Department of Natural Resources director Steve Mahfood. "We're going to have to start this process again as a state."

U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 cast uncertainty over federal jurisdiction of smaller waterways that flow into larger bodies of water, prompting the rule writing. But the agency's proposal, first released in March 2014, has been branded as federal overreach by some agricultural and business groups. Congressional Republicans contend it would curtail property rights and farming activities.

The new federal rules follow a significant expansion of state authority over some 90,000 miles of state streams. Those state rules, put into effect last year, are forcing wastewater plant operators, farmers and other industries to pay for pollution controls in many state watersheds. Lawsuits from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment forced the state to finally add protections for waters covered under federal law.

"Missouri's regulatory universe expanded significantly in the last two years as they worked through their rulemaking," said David Shorr, an attorney with Lathrop & Gage and a former DNR director. "I guess we'll see some more expansion."

While some observers said the new EPA rules are some of the most significant water-related actions since the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act, the agency itself argued the new rules will do little to expand the agency's authority. It won't limit property rights or add any new requirements for agriculture, EPA says. …

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