WASHINGTON - U.S. Congressmen John Mica (R-Fla.), Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) today, April 27, 2012, introduced legislation (H.R. 4965), which is strongly supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC). The bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from using their clean water guidance to expand the regulatory regime under the Clean Water Act (CWA). NCBA President J.D. Alexander said the legislation would stop EPA’s intentional avoidance of the rulemaking process and Congress.
“The problem with EPA is accountability. This administration has made clear its preference to use guidance documents as opposed to going through the rulemaking process. This allows the activists turned government officials to avoid public scrutiny and bypass the consideration of legal, economic and unintended consequences,” said Alexander, who is also a Nebraska cattleman. “This is a clear violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.”
The document that triggered this bipartisan legislation was the CWA jurisdictional guidance. The draft, which was proposed by EPA and the Corps April 26, 2011, is expected to be finalized soon. The guidance essentially attempts to give EPA and the Corps jurisdiction over all types of waters and many features not waters at all. The guidance claims to provide clarity and certainty to landowners. According to PLC President John Falen, if the guidance is finalized, the only thing livestock producers can be clear and certain about is more federal regulation and costly permits.
“This is a direct hit on the private property rights of farmers and ranchers across this country,” said Falen, who is a Nevada rancher. “We will fight hard against this administration’s ongoing efforts to curtail the private property rights of farmers and ranchers by regulating them to the brink of bankruptcy. We commend the representatives for standing up for private property rights and the preservation of American agriculture.”
Alexander said despite three Supreme Court rulings and a letter from 170 members of Congress opposing the guidance, EPA and the Corps have “crowned themselves kings” of every drop of water in the country. He said this bill is the best path forward in preventing the guidance from becoming reality. This legislation is subsequent to the Preserve the Waters of the United States Act, which is almost identical to H.R. 4965, introduced by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) March 28, 2012.