03.11.15

Rounds Presses Army Corps for Answers on Misleading Waters of the U.S. Statements

WASHINGTON —U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today pressed for answers regarding misleading comments made by members of the Obama Administration on the Waters of the U.S. proposal. At a hearing last week, Rounds asked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to clarify  contradictory statements about the public comments received, but was deferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Today’s letter to Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works at USACE is a follow up to that exchange.

“In South Dakota, I’ve heard from many constituents who feel this proposed rule would add unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and adversely affect their operations,” Rounds wrote. “It’s important to make sure the voices of the people in my state – and all Americans who have spent time weighing in during the public comment period – are accurately accounted for. I’m troubled that these recent statements could be misleading the American people.”

Full text of the letter is below:

March 11, 2015

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
U. S. Army Corps of Engineers
The Pentagon, Room 2E569
Army Navy Drive & Fern Street
Arlington, VA 20310-0108

Dear Secretary Darcy,

I write to you today about recent conflicting statements made by your agency and EPA regarding the public comments of Waters of the United States. In South Dakota, I’ve heard from many constituents who feel this proposed rule would add unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and adversely affect their operations. It’s important to make sure the voices of the people in my state – and all Americans who have spent time weighing in during the public comment period – are accurately accounted for. I’m troubled that these recent statements could be misleading the American people.

On February 11, you testified to the House Appropriations Committee members that 37 percent of the comments on the proposed Waters of the United States Rule were in favor of the rule, 58 percent were opposed, and the others were neutral. 

On February 26, EPA Administrator McCarthy contradicted you and claimed that your statement was based on a review of only 2 percent of the comments and that, in fact, 87 percent of the comments supported the rule.

Administrator McCarthy made the same statement to me last week in a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  When I asked her to clarify how many of the unique and substantive comments supported the proposed rule, she referred me to you.

  • In an effort to clarify these contradictory statements and ensure full transparency of the public comments the Corps of Engineers and the EPA have received regarding the proposed Waters of the United States Rule, I respectfully request responses to the following questions:
  • Approximately what percentage of comments regarding the proposed rule has the Corps of Engineers reviewed thus far?
    • Were the comments that were reviewed unique and substantive comments or were they part of a mass campaign?  In addition, can you please explain to me the difference between a unique and substantive comment and a mass campaign?  Is a mass campaign essentially multiple copies of the same comment? 
  • Please tell me how many unique and substantive comments the Corps of Engineers and EPA have received on the proposed Waters of the United States rule. 
    • Do those unique and substantive comments constitute the 2 percent of comments that the Corps has reviewed? 
    • Is it accurate to say that the Corps of Engineers has reviewed all of the unique and substantive comments? 
  • Of the unique and substantive comments received, please tell me how many supported the rule and how many opposed the rule. 
  • When the Corps of Engineers reviews comments, is your consideration influenced by the simple number of comments for and against the proposed rule, or by the thoughtful explanation of impacts of the proposed rule that EPA and the Corps may not have considered? 
  • During meetings with stakeholders, do you or the Corps of Engineers ask specifically ask members of the public to provide substantive and thoughtful explanations of potential impacts? 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.  Please assure me that the Corps of Engineers will carefully review and address the substantive concerns that have been raised in comments on the proposed rule.