Lawmakers introduce House bill to halt expansion of Clean Water Act

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2012 - House Agriculture Committee leaders helped introduce legislation in the House today to halt an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance that attempts to expand federal power under the Clean Water Act.

“This federal jurisdiction grab has been opposed by Congress for years, and now the Administration and its agencies are ignoring law and rulemaking procedures in order to tighten their regulatory grip over every water body in the country,” said the bill's sponsor, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.).

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Leaders of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Agriculture Committee introduced H.R. 4965, a bill to prohibit the Obama Administration from finalizing or implementing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act guidance that would broaden the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Act. 

“This guidance would allow the unprecedented regulation of waters, occasionally wet areas and land use decisions not previously subject to federal regulation,” according to the bill's sponsors. 

“The new authorities granted in this guidance would allow the EPA and the Corps of Engineers the authority to regulate almost any body of water in the U.S.,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).  “That means farm ponds, stock tanks, and seasonal runoff ditches could conceivably be included under new regulations.  The economic impact on farmers, ranchers, and rural communities would be devastating.”

In February, EPA and the Corps sent a final guidance document entitled “Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act” to the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory review.  Mica and Lucas joined Senate Republicans in writing to the Office of Management and Budget to oppose changes to the scope and meaning of the Clean Water Act

Statutory changes to the Clean Water Act must be submitted to Congress for legislative action, and regulatory changes require a notice and comment rulemaking, according to the Administrative Procedure Act.

“I was opposed to this Clean Water Act expansion when the Bush Administration tried it and now when the current Administration is trying it,” said Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).  “We should not be regulating every puddle, pond and ditch.  We need to provide certainty in our permitting process so agriculture and businesses can predict and plan for the future.”

The legislation introduced today would require a formal rulemaking for any attempt to change the definition of “waters of the United States” and increase the federal government's power under the Clean Water Act.


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