Washington, D.C. – In light of conflicting information about the intended purpose of detailed EPA maps of U.S. waters and wetlands, Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy demanding the agency provide additional information.
The EPA hired a private contractor to assemble maps for all 50 states, but hid them from public view until they were discovered by the Committee last summer. However, documents provided in January seemingly contradict information presented to the committee in an EPA staff briefing.
“Rather than providing full transparency about the maps, the motivations behind their creation and the reason for them being kept from public view, the agency’s response only raises additional questions at a time when the agency is attempting to re-write Clean Water Act jurisdiction,” Chairman Smith wrote.
In the briefing, EPA staff reiterated that the maps were not created for regulatory purposes. The EPA also stressed that the maps were produced at the request of junior EPA staff without the knowledge of senior EPA Office of Water officials.
However, documents produced by EPA appear to tell a different story. In particular, an email between an EPA Office of Water employee and the contractor the agency engaged to create the maps reveals that not only was the work directly connected to EPA’s regulatory agenda, it was pushed by the head of Office of Water.
“Contrary to EPA’s assertions to the Committee, senior EPA officials appear to have been actively engaged in the work between the Office of Water and the contractor engaged to produce the maps,” Chairman Smith wrote. “Additional documents appear to provide further evidence that EPA created the maps to aid in its efforts to expand its regulatory reach over private property owners across the nation.”
Chairman Smith’s letter demands full responses to the Committee’s questions as well as a staff interview with an environmental scientist who works in EPA’s Office of Water.
The full letter can be found here.