Obama announces new EPA protection of waterways

Washington (CNN)The Obama administration announced a controversial new rule Wednesday that places the Environmental Protection Agency in charge of protecting streams and wetlands, setting up a likely fight with a Republican-led Congress that is wary of greater federal oversight of waterways.

The Clean Water Rule, which was finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army, aims to protect water sources from "pollution and degradation," according to an EPA press release.
"For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the rule will only affect waters that have a connection to larger bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes, which are already protected under The Clean Water Act. According to the EPA, one in three Americans get their drinking water from streams that are vulnerable to pollution.
    The rule will also more clearly define waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act, and the EPA has also said the rule does not address land use or private property rights.
    The new rule has been praised by environmentalists but has attracted strong opposition from Republicans in Congress and property owners, including farmers, who are wary about federal oversight of their land.
    Earlier this month, the House passed legislation that would require the Obama administration to issue a revised proposal setting clear limits on the federal regulation of water, and it is likely that the GOP-led Congress will attempt to defund Wednesday's act through the appropriations process.
    In a statement Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner blasted the announcement.
    "The administration's decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs," he said. "These leaders know firsthand that the rule is being shoved down the throats of hardworking people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell."
    Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer also slammed the new rule, calling it an act of "unprecedented overreach" that will hurt Nebraska families, communities and businesses.
    But President Barack Obama said in a statement that recent court decisions have "led to uncertainty and a need for clarification."
    "This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable," Obama said.