WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, II introduced bipartisan legislation today to prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from expanding their regulatory authority to almost any body of water in America, including ditches, pipes, watersheds, and farmland ponds. Southerland’s bill, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (H.R. 5078), would stop this unprecedented federal power grab and uphold the balanced, federal-state partnership that has historically regulated the nation’s waters.
“This bipartisan legislation provides a safeguard against the federal government’s overreach into regulatory decisions best made by officials at the state and local levels,” said Southerland. “By getting Washington out of the way, we’re also providing our farmers, manufacturers, transportation builders, and construction industries with the certainty they need to grow America’s economy, free from new regulatory burdens imposed by the EPA and other D.C. bureaucrats.”
For more than four decades, regulation of pollution and water quality for the nation’s waters has been achieved through a productive partnership between state governments and the federal government. This relationship, established under the Clean Water Act (CWA), has led to significantly less pollution and cleaner water for the country. However, the Obama Administration has sought to “clarify” the scope of federal jurisdiction under the CWA in a manner that would upset this balanced regulatory approach and expand the federal government’s power. H.R. 5078 addresses what is yet another example of a disturbing pattern of an imperial presidency that seeks to use brute force and executive action while ignoring Congress.
The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act
The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act will uphold the federal-state partnership to regulate the Nation’s waters by preserving existing rights and responsibilities with respect to “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.
The bill prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from developing, finalizing, adopting, implementing, applying, administering, or enforcing:
· The proposed rule that would redefine “waters of the United States” under the CWA, or using the rule as a basis for future administrative actions that would undermine the federal-state partnership or usurp Congress’ express authority to change the scope of the Clean Water Act through a redefinition of “waters of the United States.”
· Any agency guidance that would expand the scope of waters covered by the CWA, as the Administration’s proposed WOTUS rule and draft guidance would do.
· The agencies’ interpretive rule that would broaden regulation of the agricultural community by restricting the exemption from CWA Section 404 permitting for certain agricultural conservation practices.
The bill also requires the EPA and the Corps to engage in a federalism consultation with the states and local governments by:
· Jointlyconsulting with relevant state and local officials to formulate recommendations for a consensus regulatory proposal that would identify the scope of waters to be covered under the Clean Water Act, and those waters to be reserved for the states to determine how to regulate. The proposal would need to be consistent with the applicable rulings of the United States Supreme Court.
· Preparing a draft report describing the recommendations for a consensus regulatory proposal developed as a result of the consultation with relevant state and local officials, and publish the draft report in the Federal Register for public review and comment.
· Preparing and submitting to Congress a final report describing the recommendations for a consensus regulatory proposal, based on the consultation with relevant state and local officials and the public review of the draft report.