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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. REHBERG. Confusion--you've heard the word confusion. There is no one confused. That pesky Supreme Court has ruled against the environmental community of America saying you're trying to overextend your authority or belief in the authority of the regulatory agencies. There is no confusion here. It's a private property right.

When the Clean Water Act was written, as the courts have made their decision, whether it was the U.S. Supreme Court or the Fifth Circuit, they've made a determination that ``navigable'' means navigable. Thank goodness. Finally, a court that gets it; a court that understands, that makes the right decision. There is no confusion here. The confusion is that there is an element within American society that wants to regulate all water to the detriment of private property rights.

They want to make a determination that if there is a stock water pond and a duck lands on it, we get control. If there's an independent stream, meaning it goes underground, and then occasionally when it rains too much and there is going to be moisture, we want control. This is what we're talking about in America today, overregulation. When we talk about jobs--where are the jobs--a lot of it is because of overregulation.

Might I remind my colleague from Virginia, when I first got to Congress, one of the biggest issues was sewage dumped in a river--what river? the Potomac--in the dead of night. When their sewer system was full, the D.C. Government took their sewage and dumped it into the Potomac. And you know what happened? We thought, finally, us western Congressmen and -women, that there was going to be parity, there was going to be equality, there was going to be a recognition that many of the rules and regulations were difficult, there needed to be an infrastructure bill that was going to come and clean up our waters.

And what did the Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. Representatives do to Congress? They got an exemption from the decision to continue to allow some of the things that were occurring in the Potomac.

You want to talk about the endangered species and the bridge south of here going across the Potomac? There was an Endangered Species Act. We westerners, said, Thank God. Finally there's going to be equality. There's going to be parity. You are going to recognize that some of the things that we're having to deal with in the West just don't necessarily work as easily as you think they're going to.

What did the Representatives from D.C. and Virginia and Maryland do? They helped Congress and the bureaucracy turn their backs on those various regulations. This is clearly understood. This is clearly defined. We don't want the Federal agencies mucking around in an issue that they don't understand. This is clearly an East versus West or an urban versus rural debate.

Finally, finally, the courts have said, enough is enough. You've gone too far. There is no confusion. The only confusion is they want to create confusion. They want to make an argument so they can ultimately start overregulating one more time to the cost of our jobs, to the cost of our economy, frankly, in some cases, like in the Potomac, to the cost to our environment. Shame on them.

Work with the western colleagues to clearly understand how to manage natural resources for the betterment of the natural resources, for clean water. Let the people that have allowed us the opportunity to have the clean water have it in the future. That's private property. That's a clear understanding of State regulations.

One of the reasons we're even going through the whole states' rights issue in the water issue and the adjudication process in places like Montana is so that we can clearly understand that it's a states' rights issue, that we'd better understand water--especially the headwaters. And, frankly, the downstream States are the beneficiaries of the clean water that we're sending them.

Don't further hamstring us. Don't tie our hands. Don't allow additional regulatory oversight for the various agencies that are helping to create a problem. And we'll have better clean water. Society will have a better environment. We will have a better America. And as a result, we will have the jobs that we want.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. REHBERG. I thank the gentleman from Nebraska for yielding.

No, the point is there was more than just clean water dropped into the Potomac. It was done in the dead of the night. It would not have needed to be done in the dead of the night if it was being done legally or aboveboard. And if you want to talk about the oil spill in Montana, the Yellowstone River is in fact a navigable stream.

Yes, in fact, the EPA did a good job. No, in fact, we haven't, to my knowledge, yet--and that is still yet to be open to interpretation because we are waiting--there has been no loss of life among the fish. We will wait and see. Certainly, some of the ramifications will be down the road as a result of the studies that occur. And we do appreciate the EPA coming in. But, again, it was a navigable stream.

And this amendment strips what we are trying to do to protect nonnavigable from being expanded beyond the original intent.


Mr. REHBERG. No, the issue was not as a result of the Clean Water Act being established to clean up the various rivers around the country. The issue had do with specifically the Potomac and the discharges that occurred within the Potomac. And those of us from the Western Caucus in 2001, which is when I first got to Congress, were trying to make the issue of the hypocrisy between the eastern constituency, the urban constituency of Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, trying to apply a different standard to Montana.

So the issue was specific to the discharge in the Potomac, and it was specific to the Wilson Bridge and an endangered species, and the hypocrisy of two separate interpretations. The Supreme Court has made an interpretation that the agencies are going too far. We agree with it. The language in the bill agrees with it.

This amendment is a bad amendment, and I hope you vote ``no.''


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