Mr. President, I applaud my colleagues who today took a stand against the regulatory onslaught and overreach being waged by the Environmental Protection Agency. In promulgating the Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have teamed up to promulgate one of the most expansive federal power grabs across the nation.
Recently, I spoke to this body about the threat that the growth and expansion of federal regulations pose to this country’s economic well-being. The growth of federal regulation and bureaucracy is a menacing threat to this country’s security and success. What America needs now is a smaller, less burdensome regulatory framework that will permit our nation’s economy to thrive. With $18 trillion in debt, we can only afford policies that will serve as a catalyst for economic growth.
This WOTUS rule is a prime example of a federal agency coming up with regulations that do the precise opposite. In the early 1970s, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, and charged the EPA with protecting our nation’s navigable waters from pollutants. Since then, the EPA and the Corps have been working to ever-expand the definition and scope of “navigable water,” this time stretching the meaning all the way to the outer limits of common sense.
With the WOTUS rule, the Administration has once again demonstrated a willingness to advance its own goals at any cost. Under this expansive new rule, the EPA may implement substantial additional permitting and regulatory requirements under the Clean Water Act, without any thought to employees who will lose jobs at businesses or industries this rule may cripple. As the Chamber of Commerce said earlier this week in a letter to this body, business owners and their employees in all sectors of the economy would be affected by the regulatory uncertainty of this rule, which is “certain to chill the development and expansion of large and small projects across the country.” Again, this is not the kind of regulation America can afford.
The WOTUS rule is so expansive that it would redefine the jurisdiction of bodies of water under federal control all the way down to, for example, all water located within 100 feet of any other jurisdictional water. The rule further includes all water located within 1,500 feet of any other jurisdictional water, if it also is in the 100 year flood plain. I don’t know about you, Mr. President, but I won’t stand for giving any federal agency – much less the EPA - five football fields worth of leeway to enforce any rule or regulation. As Chairman of the Budget Committee I seldom hear any agency talking about having enough resources. The EPA is not an exception. They can’t take care of what they already do.
States already know best what makes their waters navigable, and they don’t need a federal rule like WOTUS to constrain them. This is particularly true for western states, where water is a rare and protected resource – and is respected accordingly. In Idaho, a state which historically relied upon streams to support its timber industry, lawmakers consider a stream navigable if it will “float timber in excess of six inches in diameter” or if it is “capable of being navigated by oar.” Six inches – that’s not a big log. If the state of Idaho protects streams small enough to float logs that size, they don’t need a rule like WOTUS to further constrict what is considered navigable.
At some point, the overregulation by the EPA and this administration have to be stopped. [Today we had an opportunity to do just that. By passing this resolution of disapproval, we have sent a message to the President, his Administration and all its bureaucrats.]
Earlier this week, this body missed a keen opportunity to pass my friend Senator John Barrasso’s bill to roll back this regulation. His bill would have sent the EPA and the Corps back to the drawing board to develop a new rule. And, it would have told them how to do it. It would have required them to conduct a thorough economic analysis, and consult with states, local governments, and small businesses. Congress made a mistake back in 1972 when it passed the Clean Water Act and left too much up to the EPA to define. We had a chance to fix that error with Senator Barrasso’s bill. [In approving Senator Ernst’s resolution, we narrowly avoided making the same mistake twice in one week.]
This rule allows the EPA to regulate any body of water that has a “significant nexus” to a navigable water. Unfortunately, the rule leaves the definition of “significant nexus” open to the EPA’s interpretation. As anyone from Wyoming would attest, never has a federal bureaucrat missed an opportunity to make life a little more complicated for folks out West. I can’t possibly think of why we’d give the EPA an opportunity to do so here.
The Clean Water Act recognizes states as having primary responsibility for land and water resources within their boundaries. That’s a responsibility taken very seriously in places like my home state of Wyoming, where so many farmers, ranchers and small business owners rely on water for their livelihood. In Wyoming, folks know that you have to take care of the land, or the land will never take care of you. You won’t find better stewards of the land and water anywhere.
So if the folks in Wyoming tell you a rule governing the use of water is no good, you can take that to the bank. As the state’s Governor Matt Mead has said, this rule was bad from the start. In his words, “the EPA failed to properly consult with states or consider states’ concerns. The rule unlawfully seeks to expand federal jurisdiction over water, undercuts state primacy and burdens landowners and water users in the West.”
Wyoming has joined thirty other states in suing the EPA and Corps of Engineers to block this rule. If over 60% of the states in this nation are spending time and money to ask the courts to block this rule, then this resolution should pass with flying colors. If the two senators from each state suing the EPA on this regulation would have voted for the resolution yesterday it would have reached cloture. It would have passed with 2 votes to spare. In passing this Joint Resolution of Disapproval, our actions appropriately reflected what our states are telling us to do – stop this rule.
Two federal courts have already recognized the fallacy of this rule and issued stays to prevent it from being enforced. Those courts have recognized what we all should recognize: the massive scope of this rule, and the potential damage it could cause. Wyoming was lucky, in that it got some relief from a U.S. District Court Judge before the rule could be enforced in late August. In that ruling, by which the court stayed the rule’s enforcement, the court said, “the rule asserts jurisdiction over waters that are remote and intermittent waters. No evidence actually points to how these intermittent and remote wetlands have any nexus to navigable-in-fact water.”
I couldn’t have said it better. What the EPA is doing is more about control than protection. For the sake of farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, small businesses and their employees it is time to stop this outrageous regulation.
I thank the majority leader and Senators Barrasso and Ernst for recognizing how important it is to fight this bad EPA rule and bringing legislation to the floor to push back. [I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this resolution of disapproval so that we can send a clear message to the President that this Congress will not continue to accept ill-thought, ever-expansive, unendingly complicated regulations from his Administration.