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Senators Introduce Bill to Halt EPA Takeover of Water

Introduce legislation to block EPA from finalizing “Waters of the U.S.” rule that would significantly expand federal authority under the Clean Water Act.


June 19, 2014


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), David Vitter (R-LA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and 23 other Senators introduced legislation to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking over all private and state water in the United States. The Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014 prevents the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from finalizing their March 2014 proposed rule which would significantly expand federal authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). 

“The Obama EPA is trying every scheme they can think of to take control of all water in the United States. This time, their unprecedented federal water grab is in the form of a rule that will hurt family farms, ranches, and small businesses by imposing outrageous permitting fees and compliance costs,” said Barrasso. “If this rule goes forward, it will severely restrict homeowners and individual landowners in Wyoming and across the country from making local land and water use decisions. A majority of Congress already rejected the EPA’s first attempt to make this rule a reality. We will continue to do everything possible to permanently eliminate this rule and protect water rights across America.”

“EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule is a thinly veiled attempt to greatly expand the federal government’s control over ditches, floodplains, and other areas where water flows.  Their proposal would cause considerable economic pain and enable government bullying,” said Vitter. “Senator Barrasso’s bill will ensure the continued and necessary protection of our natural resources while safeguarding the private property rights of American families, farmers, and small businesses.”

“In Wyoming, water is sacred and an integral part of our lives. We will fight any attempt by the federal government to have complete control of our water rights and dictate what we can or cannot do with water on our private property,” said Enzi.

“After already calling on the EPA and Army Corps to withdraw the proposed rule, I want to make sure that the expansion of regulatory jurisdiction over ‘Waters of the United States’ is shelved for good,” said Roberts. “This straightforward legislation prohibits the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretary of the Army from finalizing the rule or trying a similar regulation in the future.” 

“This is another brazen power grab by the Obama Administration, which would have a devastating impact on Missouri farm families and serious implications for productive activities like the construction of homes, businesses, roads, and even the development of energy,” said Blunt. “I’m working with my colleagues to stop the EPA and Corps from finalizing this proposed rule, and I will keep fighting the Obama Administration’s attempts to control Americans’ private properties.”

“This proposed rule amounts to a massive power grab by EPA, which has demonstrated time and again that it is out of touch and out of control,” said Johanns. “Imposing more regulatory burdens on American families and job creators is the last thing we need from an Administration that has repeatedly pushed the envelope beyond congressional authority.  EPA needs to scrap this proposed rule and refocus its efforts within the boundaries set by Congress.”

"The EPA is following in the footsteps of our lawless President," said Cruz. “The EPA's unilateral expansion of the Clean Water Act to include regulation of puddles and temporarily flooded areas is an abuse of power that would allow the EPA march into the backyards of many Americans. Congress must exercise its power to strictly define what the EPA may do under the Clean Water  Act to protect our nation's landowners, farmers, and homeowners from undue harassment by the EPA."

The American Farm Bureau Federation officially endorsed the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014:

“The EPA/COE proposal raises serious questions. As a constitutional matter, the agencies are asserting an authority not granted them by Congress; in fact, the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation recently called for bipartisan support to prevent Congress from ceding such authority to the agency. As a practical matter, it will mean increased enforcement against farmers, greater expenses for permitting, potential delays in managing their operations, and the unquestioned exposure of legal liability attendant with lawsuits from activists.  Your legislation seeks to prevent such an outcome and deserves strong, bipartisan support. We applaud your leadership in this effort and will continue to work with you in preventing this regulation from being promulgated,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation in their letter of endorsement.

The legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), Jim Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Boozman (R-AR), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Burr (R-NC).

Background:

On March 25, 2014, EPA and the Corps released their proposed rule redefining “waters of the United States” under the CWA.  The term “waters of the United States” is the CWA’s threshold provision which determines whether the law’s permitting and regulatory requirements apply to a particular waterbody.

If finalized, the rule would represent a massive land grab by the federal government, since few water bodies would escape the agencies’ broad definition of “waters of the United States.”  The proposal effectively eliminates the CWA’s “navigable waters” provision, which Congress included to guarantee limits to federal authority.

The proposed rule would provide EPA, the Corps, as well as environmental groups with a powerful tool to delay and prevent development and land use activities on property owned by homeowners, farms, small businesses, and municipalities.  Federal bureaucrats—and not state and local authorities—could assert control over thousands of streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds, and ditches throughout the country.

The proposed rule is the agencies’ latest attempt to achieve unlimited regulatory authority over local waterbodies.  During the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) debate in 2013, 52 Senators voted to support an amendment prohibiting a similar effort by the agencies to expand their jurisdiction through a “guidance” document.

The Barrasso bill updates the WRDA amendment supported by a majority of Senators so that it now prevents finalization of the agencies’ proposed rule. It also tracks the WRDA amendment’s “similar circumstances” provision by preventing EPA and the Corps from using the proposed rule or any substantially similar rule or guidance document in any other rulemaking or regulatory decision.

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June 2014 News Releases