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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KINGSTON. Madam Chair, I rise to oppose the amendment offered by my friend from Virginia, and I do so for three reasons, and I believe that the previous speakers on our side have listed these reasons, but I wanted to just drive these points. There are three of them.

Number one, it does cede a tremendous amount of power to the executive branch. It is clear that this administration prefers to bypass Congress every chance it gets and cede things to an unelected bureaucracy. And in this case, this is a tremendous decision that the bureaucracy would be making instead of the elected representatives in the House and the Senate.

Mr. Culberson actually quoted part of it. He said that the agencies will interpret in the regions such proximate other waters to be the watershed boundary defined by the geographic area that drains to the nearest downstream navigational or interstate water through a single point of entry.

So in my district where we have the Savannah River and the St. Mary's River, the Ogeechee River, the Altamaha River and the Ohoopee, it would appear that the entire district, which I represent in coastal Georgia, would come under this new permitting process if the bureaucrats and if Mr. Moran had his way. I'm against that. If that's going to happen, let the legislative branch debate it and then send it to the executive branch.

Number two, if you do so, all you're going to do is have more busybody bureaucrats in our lives interfering with job creation and interfering with progress in general.

You know, my area of the Savannah River was authorized in the 1999 WRDA Act to dredge the river. It took 13 years for four Federal agencies to sign off on the dredging even though we have been dredging the Savannah River ever since Oglethorpe sailed up it in 1733; but it took our government, four Federal agencies, 13 years to give us a record of decision.

During that period of time, China started to build a port that is now bigger than the Port of Savannah. They started from scratch to finish, and here we are supposed to be competing in a world marketplace, but that's the kind of permitting process and delays that the bureaucracies cause us.

I would rather leave these waters under State jurisdiction than the Federal Government.

Number three and finally, it's vague. It's totally vague. Anytime the Federal bureaucrats with their unlimited bank accounts get involved in rulemaking, they can run the clock. They can charge up the permitting, the lawyer fees, do everything they want.

I will ask a question of my friend from Virginia. Can you tell me what ``significant nexus to navigable waters'' means? Does anybody know what that means? I can promise you, 435 people in this body would have a different definition as to what a ``significant nexus to navigable waters'' means.

We do not need this executive branch and this administration to have more power. This is the crowd that brought you the IRS and the AP scandals. This is the crowd that brought you Fast and Furious. Do you really want them to have more power to interpret laws? I think not. I fear they would use that kind of authority to reward their friends and punish their enemies.

For these three reasons, Madam Chair, I oppose the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KINGSTON. Madam Chair, I stand in opposition to the amendment offered by my friend from Virginia, and I want to start out by clarifying something that was said a minute ago, that this was done by clever Bush administration lawyers. In fact, it was a rule proposed by President Clinton. That would be Democrat President Clinton, a rule proposed by Democrat President Clinton.

Now, there was a public comment period. It wasn't done in the dark of the night, but it was done with public comments, and the rule was changed in 2002, which is true that President Bush would have been the President during that time period. But it was an ongoing and a slow and deliberate process, and it was simply a commonsense need that was something that I think was pro-business, which I understand is offensive to some people.

But it also streamlines the bureaucracy and helps the private sector create jobs. And all it simply did was get the Corps of Engineers and the EPA to have the same definition of fill. That's not a radical concept. That's common sense. And again, if we're going to compete in the world marketplace, we should have common sense, even with Washington bureaucrats.

Now, the definition includes materials that, when placed into the waters of the U.S., have the effect of replacing or changing the bottom elevation of any portion of that water. Therefore, it includes rock, sand, soil, clay, plastics, construction debris, wood chips, and overburden from mining.

These are regulated right now. They're not exempt from this. It simply says that the EPA and the Corps of Engineers would use the same definition. So I stand in opposition to this.

And I do not think that this is the purpose of the gentleman's amendment, but I do worry that, as this administration seems to have an open war going on on coal, is this perhaps part of it? Not necessarily this amendment, but the thinking that two different agencies can now get on a different sheet in terms of what a definition is and, therefore, one agency can be more proactive in slowing up progress and activities of which you don't approve.

There is an estimation that if this was to happen, 375,000 jobs in the mining business could be jeopardized. Now, I understand, this administration doesn't like mining, but for the rest of us who use the products in the United States of America, this is something that is significant and disturbing; 375,000 jobs in what we have called an anemic recovery already.

So I believe that the responsible thing for us to do is to reject this amendment and say that, if this definition does need to be changed, let it not be done by bureaucrats, and let it not be done by lawyers either, but let it be done by the elected representatives, both Democrat and Republican, of the American people, and let 218 of us in the House have a ``yes'' or a ``no'' vote, and then 51 in the Senate, and then send it to the White House for signature, rather than have unelected bureaucrats whom no one knows make these very important significant legal decisions for us.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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