The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works advanced legislation today to force the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite their “waters of the United States” rule, a move applauded by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council.
During the markup, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso stated that the final rule, published on May 27, is actually worse than the proposed rule.
“No matter what concessions the EPA has claimed, they have added new provisions that greatly expand their authority,” he said during the markup. “Instead of clarifying the difference between a stream and erosion of the land, the rule defines tributaries to include any place where EPA thinks it sees an ordinary high-water mark; what looks like - not what is - what looks like an ordinary high-water mark.”
Barrasso added that even worse than the tributary definition, the EPA proposes to make these decisions from their desks, using aerial photographs and laser-generated images, claiming a field visit isn’t necessary.
Senate EPW Committee Chairman Inhofe expressed his concerns over the rule in a letter sent to the EPA. In the letter, he said according to the Army Corps, 60 percent of the substantive comments received on the proposed rule opposed the rule. Yet, the bill was finalized with problematic terms and little regard for stakeholders. The rule still claims jurisdiction over areas located within a 100-year floodplain and ambiguously defines areas with a significant connection to water ways.
“The EPA and Army Corps’ have no interest in listening to the concerns and considerations of those closest to the land,” said NCBA President Philip Ellis. “The rule puts yet another regulatory burden on the rural economy and private landowners. This bill will ensure that our private lands remain viable and productive, leaving landowners free to undertake stewardship and production decisions without interference by the EPA and the Administration.”
Similar to S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, the House passed H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act in May. Without legislative action, the rule will go in effect by the end of summer, making it imperative the Senate pass this legislation without delay.