Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy faced some tough questions during a Congressional Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing today about the agency’s alleged use of undisclosed data to justify a rigorous regulatory agenda. This comes after last week’s Bloomberg News report indicating that the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are proposing a rule that has the potential to vastly expand the types of waters that fall under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) says the proposed rule is a direct contradiction to recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions, and that the rules could potentially impact producers’ ability to spread manure on their own land.

NPPC says the draft regulation would bring under CWA jurisdiction man-altered and man-made water bodies, including farm ditches, tile drainage and field filter strips. Even wetlands that are “many miles away” from jurisdictional water could be regulated, according to NPPC.

The Supreme Court has limited EPA’s and the Corps’ jurisdiction under the CWA in several instances, ruling that it cannot be based on a mere connection to a navigable water or extend to waters far removed from navigable waters.

If the draft rule becomes final in its current form, NPPC says that EPA and the Corps could potentially have jurisdiction over large tracts of state and private lands, and CWA permits would be required for a host of activities on them. Farmers could be required to obtain permits to apply manure, fertilizer or pesticides, for example.

Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), raised concerns today that such a “power grab” undermines states’ rights and increases federal control of private property that, as he says, “could lead to the EPA telling us what to do in our own back yard.”

In a news release issued late today, Chairman Smith says, “The EPA, like every other governmental institution, answers to the American people. Everyone agrees that we need to protect the environment, but we should do so in a way that is open and honest. It appears that EPA bends the law and stretches the science to justify its own objectives. We need to know whether the agency is telling the truth to the American people. The EPA must either make the data public, or commit to no longer using secret science to support its regulations. I will introduce legislation in the next few weeks that will stop the EPA from basing regulations on undisclosed and unverified information.” 

McCarthy told the committee that sound, high-quality, transparent science serves as a backbone to EPA decision making. McCarthy’s prepared remarks can be seen here. 

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