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More Time for Comments to EPA

The EPA on Monday extended the comment period on its clean water proposal — known as the Waters of the United States — until Nov 14.

EPA indicated there will be a thorough review when it closes the docket. EPA said the three-week extension will allow time for comments on a peer review to be completed soon by its Science Advisory Board of a report on the connectivity of streams and wetlands.

“EPA will not finalize the rule until it has fully reviewed the SAB peer review comments and finalized the scientific connectivity report,” the agency said in a statement.

There were 217,134 comments on the proposal as of Monday. EPA says the regulation will clarify the upstream reach of the Clean Water Act. A coalition of farm groups says the proposal could lead to regulation of farm ditches.

This was the second time EPA extended the comment period. The original 90-day comment period ending on July 21 was extended for an additional 90 days to Oct 20, with the deadline now re-set to Nov 14. EPA said it and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are continuing to meet with stakeholders during the comment period to explain the proposal, answer questions and hold discussions.

The EPA home page for the proposal is www.epa.gov/uswaters.

On Tuesday, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) reacted to the announcement, saying that any extension is good news for farmers. But he also agreed with Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE), that the extension, which goes past the November 4 congressional elections, is mainly political. “The outcome may not be any different,” Grassley said.

Johanns, who was Agriculture Secretary during the administration of President George W. Bush, is encouraging his farm constituents “to air their grievances,” to EPA during the extended comment period. 

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