U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today, March 28, 2012, introduced the Preserve the Waters of the United States Act. The legislation, which is strongly supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC), would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from using their clean water guidance to expand the regulatory regime under the Clean Water Act (CWA). NCBA President J.D. Alexander said the legislation puts up a roadblock to EPA’s intentional end-run around the rulemaking process and Congress.
“EPA has an obsession with avoiding accountability. This administration has made clear its preference to use guidance documents as opposed to going through the rulemaking process. This allows the activists turned government officials to avoid public scrutiny and bypass the consideration of legal, economic and unintended consequences,” said Alexander. “This is a clear violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.”
The document that triggered this legislation was the CWA jurisdiction guidance. The draft, which was proposed by EPA and the Corps April 26, 2011, is expected to be finalized soon. The guidance essentially attempts to give EPA and the Corps jurisdiction over all types of waters under the CWA. The guidance claims to provide clarity and certainty to landowners. According to PLC President John Falen, if the guidance is finalized, the only thing livestock producers can be clear and certain about is that any wet or dry stream, ditch and pond on their land could easily be subject to federal regulation and costly permits.
“This is a direct hit on the private property rights of farmers and ranchers across this country,” said Falen, who is a Nevada rancher. “We will fight hard against this administration’s ongoing efforts to curtail the private property rights of farmers and ranchers by regulating them to the brink of bankruptcy. We commend the senators for standing up for private property rights and the preservation of American agriculture.”
Alexander said despite three Supreme Court rulings and a letter from 170 members of Congress opposing the guidance, EPA and the Corps have “crowned themselves kings” of every drop of water in the country. He said this bill is the best path forward in preventing the guidance from becoming reality.