IN MAY, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) finalized a water regulation that removes power and responsibility from local officials and relocates it to Washington, D.C.
It’s called “WOTUS,” standing for “waters of the U.S.,” and defines what is subject to federal regulation under the federal Clean Water Act. These “waters” include the “60 percent of streams in the United States [that] flow only seasonally or when it rains” as Ken Kopocis, the EPA acting assistant administrator for water, explained recently. Currently, most of these are subject to state control.
In this new regulation, the EPA and the Corps maximized their regulatory reach by suggesting only federal employees can adequately protect our water. And they did this without consulting with their state and local co-regulators.
They continued down the path of more Washington-based decision making, meaning that federal agencies will be regulating everything from the Coosawhatchie River to ponds and dry creek beds that only temporarily have water after rainfall.
What does this mean for members of Palmetto Electric Cooperative? Well, more regulated streams (with or without water in them) mean more federal permits to maintain and expand our electric distribution network – that’s about 3,500 miles of power lines. And past experience does not suggest a quick and timely response.
The reliable electricity you pay for every month depends on a robust and well-maintained system—and our ability to quickly make necessary adjustments to keep your lights on. That’s why we seek a new rule.
Palmetto Electric takes our responsibility to protect our land and water seriously – after all, we live here, too. But we believe this task belongs close to home, here in South Carolina, where folks understand the opportunities and challenges.
We believe Congress knew what it was doing when it gave the EPA, the Corps and the states shared responsibility for protecting our water – federal jurisdiction over waters that support commerce, interstate waters and U.S. territorial waters; state jurisdiction over everything else.
Co-ops across the country are working together with other interested groups in supporting Congressional action directing the EPA and the Corps to withdraw the rule, return to the drawing board and consult with affected parties – especially state and local governments – before re-proposing anything.