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Western Caucus Applauds EPA and Trump Admin's Action To Reverse Job-Killing WOTUS Rule

Today, members of the Congressional Western Caucus commended the EPA's official repeal of WOTUS:

Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "Like a villain in Scooby Doo, the past Administration almost got away with an unparalleled expansion of Federal power. The WOTUS land and water-grab rule proposed by the Obama Administration was one of the greatest regulatory threats to the West and rural communities. Fortunately, this legally-dubious effort was unmasked for what it was by the Supreme Court and this Administration. I'm happy to see some sanity restored to Clean Water Act implementation. Thank you Acting Administrator Wheeler and President Trump for taking the lead and crafting a definition that adheres to the original law, promotes extremely clean and safe waterways, and remains Federalist in its nature."

Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42): "The Clean Water Act is an essential law that has made a tremendous impact protecting and improving the quality of one of our most precious resources. The updated WOTUS rule will help ensure our federal resource agencies are able to focus their efforts on our most significant waterways. It will also help eliminate the use of the Clean Water Act as a tool by serial litigants and extreme environmentalists to attack private property rights."

Executive Vice Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03): "The Obama Administration's Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS) was one of the most onerous federal water and land grabs in this nation's history, usurping long-held state water law, threatening access to private water rights and jeopardizing the success of the economy. The damaging impact of WOTUS cannot be disregarded, so the EPA's proposed new rule is welcome news. It is high time that we provide certainty to America's farmers, ranchers and landowners, whose livelihoods rely on water."

Vice Chairman for Indian Affairs and Oceans Don Young (AK-At Large): "The Obama-era WOTUS rule is a shining example of federal overreach. I'm pleased to see Administrator Wheeler take action in implementing President Trump's promise to overturn this shortsighted rule. I will continue to work with this administration to ensure state and local governments are able to effectively manage their waters without the unnecessary and inconsistent oversight of the federal government."

Chief Rules Officer Dan Newhouse (WA-04): "I applaud the EPA's decision to repeal the burdensome WOTUS rule and give clarification to land owners, farmers, and ranchers across the country. The Obama Administration's WOTUS rule gave the federal government unprecedented power to expansively interpret the definition of a "navigable waterway.' I know farmers and ranchers in Central Washington will continue to strive to be good stewards of their land and the environment, and the Trump Administration's newly-defined rule will finally give them the certainty they deserve."

Chief Regulatory Reform Officer Andy Biggs (AZ-05): "I support Acting Administrator Wheeler's efforts to change course from the unconstitutional Obama-era WOTUS rule. This rule is a blatant attack on property rights and is an expansion of government bureaucracy. I am hopeful that this new administrative action will bring much-needed relief to farmers, ranchers, and minors across the West. I continue to call on Congress to codify the administration's positive steps."

Rep. Alex Mooney (WV-02): "Replacing the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule is another example of President Donald Trump fulfilling the promises he made to all Americans. The previous rule represented the very worst of federal government overreach by regulating any puddle or trickle of water such as my constituent Lois Alt in Hardy County, West Virginia. This rule hindered farmers, land owners and communities across West Virginia. I applaud the Trump Administration for crafting a rule that respects private property rights and gives states flexibility in managing water within their borders."

Rep. Ron Estes (KS-04): "The Trump administration's new WOTUS Rule is a win for farmers and ranchers across Kansas and our nation. By removing Obama-era regulations and providing needed certainty to the application of the Clean Water Act, this rule gives power back to states and farmers on how best to protect the environment while strengthening our economy. I am thankful the EPA and the U.S. Army listened to stakeholders in crafting this rule and look forward to its implementation."

Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22): "The proposed changes to Waters of the United States by the EPA and the Department of the Army are the right call. These much needed improvements return power to the states and the people, and limit the intrusive Federal overreach the original proposal created. I applaud this decision that brings common sense back to water use decisions for local governments, farmers and the people."

Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04): "The Obama "Waters of the United States Rule' that extended EPA control over all waterways in direct contravention of the Clean Waters Act was unwise as policy and unconstitutional as law. The new rule that replaces it moves us back to common sense and constitutional limits."

Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-06): "I applaud the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers for their proposed WOTUS rule. Our nation's farmers, ranchers and land owners across the country deserve clarity on where the Clean Water Act applies, and more importantly where it does not. Like all Minnesotans, I believe that we need to be good stewards of our land and waterways, and this new rule will accomplish just that."

Rep. Glenn "GT' Thompson (PA-05): "The Obama Administration's Waters of the United States rule was an unprecedented land grab that expanded the reach of the Clean Water Act far beyond Congressional intent. Farmers, ranchers and those who live off the land deserve certainty in how the law is administered, yet the WOTUS proposal did the complete opposite and only added more confusion. Uncertainty has governed the lives of farmers and ranchers for too long, and I fully support President Trump's efforts to truly clarify the Clean Water Act."

Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50): "It had long been the goal of those of us who seek to improve and protect the private property rights of all Americans to clearly define the regulatory definition of 'waters of the United States.' With the help and support of a President who has committed his administration toward the goal of limiting government overreach, private homeowners, farmers and ranchers will have peace of mind on their own property, knowing they can move forward with simple projects that in years before would have required months of waiting for a federal permit and thousands of dollars spent on legal professionals."

Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-01): "This provision is a broad government overreach that confuses our farmers, ranchers, and small business owners while taking away an individual's ability to make decisions regarding their own property. I look forward to this new rule that will curtail the current regulation that views a ditch as equivalent to a major waterway and digresses from Congressional intent. This common-sense reform will relieve our agriculture producers from Obama-era overly burdensome requirements."

Rep. Debbie Lesko (AZ-08): "I applaud the EPA and the Trump Administration for taking action to end the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and restore power to Arizona's farmers, ranchers, and landowners. This land and water grabbing rule created under the Obama Administration is a prime example of a federal overreach placing unnecessary burdens on states and property owners. It's time for the onerous WOTUS rule to be repealed once and for all."

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-02): "The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule has been detrimental to our country's farmers and ranchers since the day it was put in place by the Obama Administration. The federal government doesn't belong regulating every creek, ditch, and stream. This proposed replacement rule from the Trump Administration gives farmers, ranchers, and small business owners the power to take care of their backyards without the unnecessary red tape they face now. I applaud the Trump Administration for the proposed rule."

Rep. Garret Graves (LA-06): "The 2015 rule was an unconstitutional expansion of federal power that used bureaucrat-speak to strip landowners of their rights and local governments of their ability to manage waters within their borders. This new approach is the product of doing it the right way -- openly, with the input of the American people. The new rule respects the rights of private property owners and the sovereignty of states, right-sizes the federal government's role in enforcement and provides clarity where there was confusion. Instead of forcing a top-down, one-size-fits-all mandate, it recognizes that the issues on the ground in places like Arizona are fundamentally different than in places like Louisiana and gives states the flexibility to manage those differences. Most importantly, it doesn't compromise the goal: preventing pollution, ensuring clean water and protecting wetlands."

Rep. Mike Johnson (LA-04): "Regulating back yard ditches and mud puddles does nothing to ensure Americans' access to safe, clean and reliable water. It does, however, far exceed the powers granted to the federal government. Thankfully, the Trump administration's new plan clearly defines what is, and more importantly, what is not, subject to the Clean Water Act. Farmers and ranchers all across the U.S. can rest easy knowing their privacy and their land will be protected from government encroachment."

Rep. Greg Gianforte, MT-AL: "President Obama's Waters of the U.S. mandate further empowers federal bureaucrats in Washington and threatens our Montana way of life, particularly for our farmers and ranchers. Today's announcement from the Trump administration seeks to roll back federal overreach, clarify the federal government's jurisdiction, and return power to states and tribes to manage their waters. The administration's proposal will reduce uncertainty and help Montana's farmers and ranchers."

Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03): "Our nation's farmers and landowners have spent millions fighting the overreach of the 2015 Obama-era rule. The Trump Administration is right to narrow the scope, delivering much needed clarification on the definition and relief from bureaucracy run amok."

Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO-05): "The Obama-era WOTUS Rule was an unnecessarily overreach by EPA, which hampered growth in communities across America. It expanded the EPA's jurisdiction, leading to burdensome red tape for individuals and bureaucratic control over drainage diches, agricultural ponds, and isolated wetlands. The farmers, builders, and landowners in this country deserve freedom from burdensome and ambiguous federal regulations and flawed rules. I believe each state reserves the right to determine the best land management for itself. I'm pleased the EPA repealed and replaced WOTUS with reasonable regulatory reforms that complement existing state and tribal regulations and programs. I'm confident the benefits will be reaped for years to come."

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01): "After listening to those directly impacted by one of the previous Administration's most harmful rules, the EPA is replacing WOTUS with something that actually makes sense for land and business owners. Instead of attempting to needlessly regulate every puddle, ditch, and furrow in America, the new rule will focus on bodies of water and wetlands that are physically and meaningfully connected to other bodies of jurisdictional water. Now, those driving our economy will spend less time and money on land-use decisions and litigation and more time on running their business. States will finally have a clear definition of where federal jurisdiction ends and begins, as well as the ability to properly manage their own water. WOTUS was nothing short of a job-killing Washington power grab, and I'm glad to see it replaced with something that works."

Rep. Ralph Norman (SC-05): "I applaud the Trump Administration, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of the Army for their committed efforts to reigning in the overreaching Obama-era definition of 'Waters of the United States' commonly known as WOTUS. We need clarity, predictability, and consistency. The Trump Administration has done just that by proposing a new rule that clearly lays out when federal jurisdiction will apply to WOTUS under the Clean Water Act. This new ruling will allow for federal oversight to be balanced with state authority to regulate their waters. This clearly defined partnership will allow for navigable waters to be regulated appropriately, while avoiding the negative impacts of federal overreach on farmers and ranchers, that is currently occurring. I look forward to supporting this new rule and working with the Trump Administration to ensure implementation of this new definition. This clearly defined partnership will allow for navigable waters to be regulated appropriately, while avoiding the negative impacts of federal overreach on farmers and ranchers, that is currently occurring. I look forward to supporting this new rule and working with the Trump Administration to ensure implementation of this new definition."

Rep. Roger Marshall (KS-01): "The Trump Administration deserves accolades from rural America for their continued actions to repeal the misguided Waters of the United States rule. As Kansans know entirely too well, the Obama WOTUS rule dramatically expanded the reach of the federal government with minimal improvement in water quality. Today's announcement serves as a tremendous relief to landowners and farmers. This is yet another exciting step in fulfilling this Administration and Congress' promise to return government to its proper role."

Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH-07): "I applaud President Trump's efforts to reverse the power grab attempted by the Obama Administration. It is clear enforcement of the Clean Water Act must be a collaborative effort between the federal and state government. This is an issue I've been fighting for several years, working to make sure our agriculture community, homebuilders, private property advocates, and local governments are given a clear set of jurisdictional rules. We can protect the environment, encourage economic growth, and safeguard private property rights without unnecessarily expanding federal jurisdiction. This WOTUS rule does that while providing the certainty our nation's farmers and ranchers need."

Rep. Ralph Abraham (LA-05): "Obama's WOTUS simply went too far -- a puddle of water that might run into a ditch that then might run into a stream or river is by no means a navigable waterway and should not be treated as such. I'm still reviewing the new rule, but I'm pleased with what I've seen so far. We all want clean water, and we can achieve that without handing over our land rights to the EPA."

Background:

Courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

Today, December 11, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) proposed a revised definition of "waters of the United States," which would delineate the scope of federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act in a clear and understandable way.

The agencies are concerned that the previous administration's 2015 Rule defining "waters of the United States" may have greatly expanded Washington's control over local land use decisions. The agencies' new proposal respects the constitutional and statutory limits of federal government to regulate navigable water under the Clean Water Act and gives states and tribes more flexibility to determine how best to manage waters within their borders. The agencies' new proposed definition will fulfill President Trump's commitment to end this federal overreach. It ends year of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. It is clear and easy to understand. It will help landowners understand whether a project on his or her property will require a federal permit or not, without spending tens of thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals. This certainty and clarity will save Americans time and money while accelerating infrastructure projects and economic development.

Right now, because of litigation, the 2015 "waters of the United States" rule is in effect in 22 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories; and the previous regulations, issued in the 1980s, are in effect in the remaining 28 states. This inconsistent regulatory patchwork creates uncertainty and hinders projects that can benefit both the environment and the economy. The proposed definition would establish national consistency and would rebalance the relationship between the federal government and states in managing land and water resources. States already have their own regulations for waters within their borders, regardless of whether they are federally regulated as "waters of the United States." The agencies' new proposal will eliminate the time-consuming and uncertain process of determining whether a "significant nexus" exists between a water and a downstream traditional navigable water as directed under the agencies' 2008 Rapanos Guidance or whether a water has a significant nexus to a traditional navigable water, interstate water or territorial sea as codified in the agencies' 2015 Rule defining "waters of the United States."

EPA and the Army listened to those directly impacted by the regulations and are proposing a definition that includes the following key aspects:

Excludes ephemeral streams and related features.
Covers only adjacent wetlands that are physically and meaningfully connected to other jurisdictional waters.
Cuts most ditches from unnecessary federal regulation.
Eliminates the use of subjective tests to determine jurisdiction over individual waters.
Retains exclusions for groundwater, prior converted cropland, stormwater control systems, some wastewater recycling structures, groundwater recharge basins, and waste treatment systems from federal Clean Water Act regulation.
Regulates perennial and intermittent tributaries to traditional navigable waters.

The agencies will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The agencies will also hold an informational webcast on January 10, 2019, and will host a public hearing on the proposed rule in Kansas City, KS, on January 23, 2019. Additional information on both engagements is available at https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule. Comments on the proposal should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149 and may be submitted online. Go to https://www.regulations.gov

Courtesy of the Congressional Western Caucus

One of the Western Caucus' main priorities is repealing the Obama Administration's Water of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which was finalized by former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in 2015.

On March 25, 2014, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule that would assert Clean Water Act jurisdiction over nearly all areas with even the slightest of connections to water resources, including man-made conveyances. Specifically, this WOTUS Rule attempted to expand agency control over 60% of our country's streams and millions of acres of wetlands that were previously non-jurisdictional.

The Obama Administration tried to make the case that "waters of the United States" refers not just to permanent bodies of navigable water, but to far smaller bodies of water including those that are tiny, seasonal or even ones that do not connect up with larger water systems. This was an astounding departure from longstanding interpretation of the Clean Water Act that expanded federal power to reach into every nook and cranny of our nation's waterways under a flimsy Commerce Clause argument. Family farmers were kept awake at night, worried that rains wouldn't let up before turning their puddles into regulated ponds and running them out of business in the process. Recreational water and marsh users were rightfully wary that Federal regulators would invade their turf and suddenly declare their sport of choice too harmful on the waterway. Developers preemptively pulled out of projects deemed at high risk of falling under federal environmental jurisdiction -- all because the Feds may declare a nearby ditch jurisdictional. And when they do declare jurisdiction, it's not just water under the bridge. Individual Clean Water Act permits have taken an average of 788 days to process and $271,596 on the part of the applicant; fines and criminal liability await those who skirt these requirements. Lives and livelihoods are at stake.

WOTUS negatively impacts states throughout the country by impeding upon state's rights, encroaching on private lands, and violating the civil liberties of many Americans.

On 05/21/2018, Western Caucus Member Jim Banks (IN-03) introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill that would repeal WOTUS. It passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 238-173 and 13 Democrats supporting repeal.

View Western Caucus Press Releases on WOTUS and the Farm Bill here and here.
View letter sent to Farm Bill Conferees by Reps. Banks and Walker, Western Caucus Members and 51 total Members urging repeal of WOTUS here.

On 07/19/2018, H.R. 6147, the Department of the Interior, Environment, Financial Services, and General Government Appropriations Act of 2019 passed the House of Representatives.

One of the numerous provisions that the bill contained was a Western Caucus provision to repeal WOTUS.
View the Western Caucus Press Release here.
Last Congress, more than 170 bipartisan members cosponsored legislation calling for WOTUS to be repealed and another 120 bipartisan signed a letter urging repeal. That request can be found here.


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