Feds May Reduce Role in Water Cleanups

The Bush administration has discussed reducing the government's role in a Clinton-era program detailing state cleanup plans for thousands of lakes and rivers, according to a report by The Associated Press.

A two-year-old federal regulation requires states to develop detailed plans to reduce pollution in more than 20,000 lakes, rivers, streams and bays that do not meet minimum federal water quality standards.

Congress stopped the regulation from taking effect after many states raised questions and after farm and business interests expressed their opposition. The Bush administration has kept the regulation on hold while it considers changes to them.

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman was briefed this month on a proposal to give states more control over the program, agency spokesman Joe Martyak said Saturday.

He said that briefing does not constitute a final decision and there have been meetings to discuss other options, including increasing the federal role. The agency hopes to make a decision within a couple of months on what changes to make, Martyak said.

Last year, a National Academy of Sciences panel said the program had been put into place without enough evidence to assure the right bodies of water were being targeted.

The regulation has been supported by environmentalists, but opposed by a broad range of interests, including agriculture groups, the utility industry and many governors. Critics have said the requirements would cost billions and take away from states the flexibility needed to deal with water pollution problems.

The Associated Press

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