Attorney General Greg Abbott insisted this week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back down from their proposal to expand the definition of federal waters to include seasonal and rain-dependent waterways. But according to the EPA, the proposal will create harsher penalties for polluting these waterways, which is not only better for the environment but also for local residents—especially because many people get drinking water from these sources.
“It’s important to protect the whole network of streams that flow into rivers and oceans,” said Ellen Gilinsky, a senior adviser for water at the EPA. “This rule ensures clean waters for Texans to drink and recreate in, clean water for businesses, and clean water for farmers.”
But in a written response, Abbot says the new proposal “is without adequate scientific and economic justification and, if finalized, would erode private property rights and have devastating effects on the landowners of Texas.”
The EPA says the update is needed to help close loopholes in the Clean Water Act, which has left more than half of America’s streams and around 20 million acres of wetlands at risk of unregulated pollution and development.
Abbot’s battle with the EPA over air pollution has been extraordinarily long-winded. So far, Texans have had to pay nearly $4 million for Abbott’s continued pressure on the federal agency charged with protecting the nation’s environment through regulations. While some Texans still stand behind Abbott on the issue, not all are happy with the drawn-out drama unfolding.
“Abbott is using precious public resources to attack clean air protections for Texans,” wrote Marcelo Norsworthy, a Texas-based transportation analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund in July. “His penchant for rhetorical flourish is in sharp contrast with his actual track record. He has racked up a long list of court losses in his ongoing effort to weaken environmental and public health protections.”