Baker Concerned New Clean Water Act Bill Expands But Does Not Clarify Federal Power
U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, (R-LA), Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, and longtime advocate for federal wetlands clarification, made the following statement on the: "Clean Water Authority Restoration Act" (CWARA), introduced today by Reps. James Oberstar, John Dingell, and Vernon Ehlers:
"I applaud Chairman Oberstar for his initiative to clarify the confusing, costly and frustrating world of federal wetlands regulation. For twenty years I have joined with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to untangle what the Courts and the Corps have ensnared with often conflicting and ambiguous rulings.
"I am concerned, however, that this bill represents the largest ever expansion of federal powers over private property and most likely creates a larger cloud of confusion over application and interpretation. I believe that clarity of existing authority, not an expansion of it, is what is necessary.
"This bill would expand federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The Clean Water Act has never regulated 'all intrastate waters,' and 'all activities that affect those waters' to the full extent of Congress's legislative power under the Constitution as this bill would allow.
"In Louisiana, where we endure the torrential rain of hurricanes and tropical storms, how would this bill address the regulation of heavy, sustained rainfall that often results in floodwaters, which ultimately produce the hydrological metrics by which the Corps delineates wetlands?
"The CWARA does not clarify CWA jurisdiction or create certainty' for the regulated public. Would CWARA regulate ditches, groundwater, desert drainages, erosional features -- all of which have been the subject of regulatory overreach by the agencies in the past?
"I note that CWARA creates new 404(f) exemptions that do not exist in current law. I applaud these provisions, and borrowing upon my previous reform measures in the past, I would like to add to this list.
"The CWARA does not recognize the primary right and responsibility of States to control local land and water use decisions. In this regard, it is inconsistent with section 101(b) of the existing CWA. In my legislative efforts in prior Congresses, I have specifically articulated the role of the States to regulate all waters within their jurisdiction.
"To date, Section 404 of the CWA has been expanded, parsed, obfuscated, and tortured in the jujitsu of Court rulings and Corps guidances. I fear this legislation will not mitigate against growing litigation, further leaving more interpretations to the Courts and the Corps.
"Again, I urge clarity, not expansion, of the Clean Water Act. I urge the Committee to study the issue of wetlands regulation closely and this legislation's potential impact on that authority. And of course, I look forward to working with Chairman Oberstar and Ranking Member Mica on this endeavor."