The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today approved legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers from dramatically and illegally expanding federal power to regulate water and land use under the Clean Water Act.
The Committee also approved a bill that authorizes funding for the United States Coast Guard for the next three years and rejects the Obama Administration's proposed cuts to the Service. In addition, the Committee approved a bill to authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Marine Debris Program, two bills to name U.S. courthouses, and the Committee's summary of legislative and oversight activities report.
H.R. 4965 will prohibit the Obama Administration from attempting to ignore proper federal rulemaking procedures by finalizing or implementing EPA and Corps Clean Water Act "guidance" in order to significantly broaden the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Act. The bill was approved today by a bipartisan vote of 33 to18.
"This is another example of an over-reaching Administration trying to force more federal control over the lives of our citizens, farmers, and businessmen," said Full Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL), who introduced H.R. 4965 in the House. "This so called "guidance' goes far beyond clarifying the federal government's jurisdiction and instead would significantly increase the EPA's power under the Clean Water Act."
"EPA and the Corps have acknowledged that this guidance represents a significant increase in the scope of the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction," said Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH), also a sponsor of the legislation. "Of particular concern is the manner by which these agencies have attempted to expand Federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
"This legislation is not an attempt to "roll back' provisions of the Clean Water Act or eliminate environmental protections," Gibbs explained. "The purpose of H.R. 4965 is to prevent the Agencies from skirting the law and avoiding a transparent rulemaking process by prohibiting EPA and the Corps from finalizing, adopting, implementing, or enforcing this or any similar proposed "guidance.' It is unfortunate that the Agencies have chosen this backdoor approach to rulemaking instead of a proper, transparent process. If the Administration seeks statutory changes to the Clean Water Act, then a proposal should be submitted to Congress and we will have a healthy debate. Until that time, the current flawed process needs to stop."
The Committee also approved the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Authorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 5887). This is a three-year reauthorization of the Coast Guard for fiscal years 2013-2015. Although the House approved a three-year Coast Guard bill last year, the Senate has not yet acted on it. H.R. 5887 was introduced in the House by Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ).
"H.R. 5887 will continue the work we began last fall when the House passed our original Coast Guard authorization bill," LoBiondo said. "This bill provides crucial funding for the Coast Guard's acquisition program, which the Obama Administration proposed to slash by nearly 20 percent in their fiscal year 2013 budget request. The President's requested level will only continue to increase delays and drive up acquisition costs, while denying our Servicemembers the critical assets needed to perform their duties. This bill also contains provisions that will give the Coast Guard and its personnel greater parity with the Department of Defense.
"In addition to measures related directly to the operation of the Coast Guard, this bill provides a degree of regulatory certainty to our nation's fishermen at a time of great economic uncertainty," LoBiondo added. "H.R. 5887 extends the date on which new fishing vessels must be classed in order to give the Coast Guard sufficient time to provide guidance to the fishing industry and shipyards.
H.R. 5887 was approved by voice vote, as were the Marine Debris Act Reauthorization Amendments of 2011 (H.R. 1171), a bill to designate the United States courthouse located at 100 North Church Street in Las Cruces, New Mexico, as the "Edwin L. Mechem United States Courthouse" (H.R. 3742), and a bill to designate the United States courthouse located at 709 West 9th Street in Juneau, Alaska, as the "Robert Boochever United States Courthouse" (H.R. 4347).
The Committee also approved by voice vote its Summary of Legislative and Oversight Activities Committee Report.