Opinion: Senator Joni Ernst says EPA's WOTUS 'ill-conceived'

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By Senator Joni Ernst

Recently, a bipartisan majority of U.S. Senators voted to close the floodgates on Washington bureaucrats determined to sink farmers, homebuilders, and manufacturers across the nation in legal uncertainty, compliance burdens, and increased costs.

Under the guise of protecting clean water, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) latest power grab threatens the very livelihood of my fellow Iowans and is an economic assault on small businesses, manufacturing and agriculture. These industries are the backbone of this country, especially in rural America. 

EPA's ill-conceived Waters of the U.S. rule, better known as WOTUS, has been the top issue of concern for many hardworking Americans across the country. This rule breeds uncertainty, confusion, and more red tape, which is why I introduced, and the U.S. Senate passed, a resolution of disapproval to scrap it in its entirety. 

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We all want clean water and clean air.  That is not disputable.  As Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp stated, for anyone to suggest otherwise, “is absolutely insulting.”  However, this rule is not about clean water.  The heart of this issue is about how much authority the federal government and unelected Washington bureaucrats should have to regulate what is done on private land. 

For example, the WOTUS rule would give EPA extensive power to regulate water on 97 percent of the land in my home state of Iowa.  EPA's change in the definition of what constitutes a water of the U.S has resulted in a rule that is so complex and vague that farmers in my state are concerned that a grass waterway, a ditch or standing water in their fields after a rainstorm could now be regulated by the EPA.  Some Iowans have even told me they may need to hire a lawyer to help them sift through the 300 page rule to see if they are in compliance.  

If one were to take a look at the commerce and recreation happening on our nation's rivers, it is easy to see why these are considered navigable waters.  When Congress passed the Clean Water Act, this was the type of water it intended to protect under WOTUS, not a grass waterway running across a farmer's field, or a ditch bordering it.    

Thirty-one states, as well as agricultural, manufacturing, building, and business groups are pushing back against this costly rule.  Senators from both sides of the aisle are concerned about this federal overreach, as well as the number of middle class jobs and voluntary and community-based conservation projects it will harm in its wake.  Not to mention the mountain of federal permits that hardworking Americans will now be forced to get, which will surely fall victim to federal government backlogs and bureaucratic procedures.   

There are several Army Corps memos that expressed concern over the lack of scientific support for the rule, yet these were blatantly ignored by the EPA in favor of politics.  In addition, two courts have already called into serious question the legality of this WOTUS rule and the science behind it.

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In fact, this rule is so controversial that eleven Senate Democrats - after voting to uphold President Obama's rule at the behest of liberal special interests and donors - immediately ran for cover by sending a letter warning EPA they may oppose the rule in the future if it is not fixed. Only in Washington could someone reserve the right to do their job at a later time, but it shows the level of concern is high and non-partisan.

So, despite the hard evidence, despite the fact that there is large bipartisan concern over the rule, and despite the likelihood that this rule will ultimately be scrapped by the courts, the Administration remains laser-focused on unilaterally enforcing its harmful agenda over the voice of the American people.  

Washington must scrap this WOTUS rule and instead provide clear principles and direction to the EPA that reflects the concerns of stakeholders.  When the legislation is sent to the President's desk, hardworking folks across the country are hoping he sides with our communities instead of his unchecked federal agency. He should. I know that I do. 

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