House Committee Questions Purpose of EPA Waters and Wetlands Maps

House Committee Questions Purpose of EPA Waters and Wetlands Maps

A press release from the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology raises questions about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) creation of and intended use for maps highlighting waters and wetlands for all 50 states. The maps, which were created in 2013 shortly after EPA proposed its Waters of the U.S. rule, had never been made public. Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter this week to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy demanding additional information about the agency’s motivation for having had the detailed maps assembled. When confronted at a hearing, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe agreed to release the maps. 

Smith writes, “These maps show the EPA’s plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country.  Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA’s desire to minimize the importance of these maps.  But the EPA’s posturing cannot explain away the alarming content of these documents.  It’s time to give Americans a chance to make up their own minds about the EPA’s intentions. While the Agency marches forward with a rule that could fundamentally re-define Americans’ private property rights, the EPA kept these maps hidden.  So, today I will be posting the maps on the Committee’s website for public review.”  

  While the EPA has claimed the maps have not yet been used to regulate, they have failed to explain why the agency used taxpayer money to create them.  The EPA paid a private contractor to make many of these maps, yet the details of the arrangement have not been disclosed. Serious questions remain regarding the EPA’s underlying motivations for creating such highly detailed maps that were created just days after the EPA announced its Waters of the U.S. rule. 

The letter requests all documents and communications related to the EPA’s contract to create these maps and demands that these and any other previously undisclosed maps in the EPA’s possession be entered into the official rulemaking docket for public review and comment.  The letter also requests EPA keep the public comment period open for at least 60 days to provide adequate opportunity for public review and comment.      

Tom Reynolds, associate administrator of the EPA's office of external affairs and environmental education, sought to clarify the situation in a blog post entitled, "Mapping the Truth." He says EPA has never and is not now relying on maps to determine jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Read his blog post here. 

The full letter can be found here.

The maps are posted here.

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