Angelina Co. Commissioners stand up to proposed EPA water rule

Angelina Co. Commissioners stand up to proposed EPA water rule
Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The ownership of water came under fire at the monthly Angelina County Commissioners Court meeting, Wednesday morning.

All four commissioners and County Judge Wes Suiter said they are against a new proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would redefine waters owned by the United States.

"Show me the law that gives you the authority to do this and that's what we're doing," Suiter said. "We're in opposition to them arbitrarily changing the law."

Suiter presented a resolution to the commissioners that said the new law would be burdensome to the county with more regulations and un-warranted federal permits.

The Clean Water Act that currently regulates navigable streams, a term with broad interpretation. The proposed changes will specifically define what is and isn't a waters of the U.S.

Proponents of the proposal said the changes are an investment in the future.

In an interview with KTRE in July, Rick Lowerre, an environmental and water issue attorney, said the changes will make the legal concerns more clear.

"First the clarity is going to help in avoid litigation and getting things clear for people who want to develop and for people who are concerned about development," Lowerre said.

The EPA said their main concern is water sources that directly impact people.

"These pristine places are critical for safe drinking water," said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy in a Youtube video. "But you know it is more than that. It is about protecting our natural resources."

Suiter said the commissioners are not against keeping the water clean and protected. Suiter said their concern is about the red tape and federal permits that will come to any project they work on near a water source.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Scott Cooper said several bridges would still not be complete on Old Diboll Highway if their recent construction was done under the new proposed rule.

"It would add tax dollars and personnel on our end," Cooper said. "[There would be] personnel and tax dollars on the federal end; all without the legislature saying yes."

Suiter said the time frame for getting a 404 permit, which is required on any project that is built in federal waterways, varies.

"When we did the work on Cassel-Boykins Park, it took almost a year to get the permit on the boat ramp," Suiter said.

The Angelina County Commissioners are not the only ones to speak out against the federal agency. U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert is also against the changes.

"They are not allowed, the federal government is not allowed to have control and permit any water that is not a navigable water way," Gohmert said.

Gohmert said the states should be allowed to control the conservation of water and wetlands.

"All indications are the TCEQ is doing a good job at making sure our water is getting better and better," Gohmert said. "We don't need to go to Washington to do what needs to be done on a local property."

State Representative Travis Clardy also weighed in on the conversation.

"I'm appalled that the federal government is trying to assert jurisdiction where it has none," Clardy said. "This is a clear example of more federal overreach. I'm confident Texas will continue to fight to maintain its sovereignty . I'm certainly going to do everything in my power to do so."

In the recent weeks, Trinity and Polk County have also passed similar resolutions. Houston County Judge Erin Ford said he has been following the other counties but has not put together a resolution. Ford said he does agree with the other East Texas Counties.

The EPA is still accepting comments in its public discussion period. That period ends on Nov. 14. To learn how to put in input, click here.

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