Obama ups federal powers to curb river pollution

US president, Barrack Obama, has stepped up federal protection of the country's waterways and drinking water supplies with a rule that clarifies which water courses and bodies may be covered by the 1972 Clean Water Act.

The new legislation - the Clean Water Rule - was issued through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has drawn fierce opposition from fertilizer companies, the agriculture sector, energy producers and conservatives in Congress for being over intrusive.

Critics have said the rule will hamper economic growth and drive up costs for farmers and chemical producers. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy has denied it will hamper economic growth.

The new rule, according to the Obama administration, restores some - but not all - federal authority undermined by court rulings over the past 15 years. President Obama said: "This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable." He went on to say the rule was designed not to "get in the way of farming, ranching or forestry."

The rule is understood to maintain exemptions for farmers but they must pay fees or obtain permits for any work that could cause polluted water to run into any body covered by the Clean Water Act.
 
Nearly 120 million people in the US take drinking water from sources that may not be protected by the Clean Water Act. It gives the federal government powers to limit pollution in "navigable" waterways. But the reach of the act was compromised in about 15 year s ago by Supreme Court rulings that made it unclear whether the act also covered groundwater or tributaries to larger waterways.

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