Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, met last week with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to press again for the agency to abandon its proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule. Hoeven said farmers and ranchers are concerned by the proposal that significantly expands EPA authority to regulate small wetlands, creeks, stock ponds and ditches under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
"We made it clear to the Administrator that the EPA needs to abandon this proposed rule," said Hoeven. "Their proposal is causing uncertainty for our farmers and ranchers and making it more difficult and more expensive for our producers to do their jobs. The last thing they need is the burden of additional regulations and litigation."
On March 25, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule that includes broad new definitions of the scope of "waters of the United States" that fall under the jurisdiction of the CWA. The proposed definition could apply to a countless number of small wetlands, creeks, stock ponds, and ditches that are typically regulated at a state level. This expansion of the EPA's regulatory authority would have significant economic impacts for property owners who would face new federal permits, compliance costs and threats of fines.
Hoeven is cosponsoring and working to pass the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, legislation that would prevent the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing its March 2014 proposed rule, which would expand federal authority under the CWA. The senator has also led the effort in the Senate Appropriations Committee to include language in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill to block the EPA and Corps from implementing the onerous new rule in Fiscal Year 2015.
Senate Agriculture Committee members attending the meeting with Senator Hoeven included Senators Thad Cochran, Mitch McConnell, Pat Roberts, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Johanns, Chuck Grassley and John Thune.