WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2016 - The “Waters of the U.S.” rule drafted by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers shows that the agencies are trying to exert far more power over farmers and ranchers than Congress ever intended, the Republican majority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said Tuesday in a report.
“Case studies in this report show that the Obama administration is already asserting federal control over land and water based on the concepts they are trying to codify in the WOTUS rule, even though the courts have put that rule on hold,” Committee Chair Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said. “Congress shouldn’t wait on the Supreme Court to make the inevitable decision that this agency overreach is illegal.”
An EPA spokeswoman said Tuesday afternoon that agency is reviewing the report and is not yet ready to respond.
The 38-page report has a 42-word title, “From Preventing Pollution of Navigable and Interstate Waters to Regulating Farm Fields, Puddles and Dry Land: A Senate Report on the Expansion of Jurisdiction Claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.” The document is replete with what its authors say are examples of regulatory overreach. It asserts at one point that the EPA and the Corps are trying to exert control over land that has been plowed if it creates shallow pools of water that EPA can claim are wetlands.
The report details an EPA effort to stop a Wyoming rancher from keeping a stock pond he built for his cattle. Stock ponds are supposed to be exempt from EPA’s jurisdiction, the report says, but the agency disregarded that because “the pond was too aesthetic to be a stock pond, and fell outside the stock pond exemption.”
The Obama administration’s WOTUS rule has long been criticized by both Republicans and some Democrats in Congress as well as by a long list of farm groups.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has been one of the most vocal opponents of the rule and the group’s president, Zippy Duvall, was quick to react to the new report.
“The report shows in detail how the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have used an overly expansive interpretation of their authority to regulate waters of the U.S.,” Duvall said. “The agencies have persistently and unlawfully stretched the limited authority Congress gave them, even to the point of regulating ordinary plowing, a normal farming activity exempted by Congress. They have even claimed authority to regulate tire ruts and puddles found on the farm.”
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