Bipartisan Word from Congress to EPA: Back Off Clean Water Act Expansion

11:02AM May 12, 2014
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Western United Dairymen joins more than 100 ag groups opposing rule change that would give the federal government more authority by expanding the definition of "navigable waters."

Source: Western United Dairymen’s Weekly Update

Western United Dairymen (WUD) last week hailed efforts by a bipartisan group of Congressional representatives asking the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to back off its plan to expand federal control under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Both agencies are seeking a rule change to give the federal government more authority by expanding the already overly broad definition of ‘navigable waters’ under the CWA.

"We reached out to members of the California delegation who are engaged in federal water quality issues and received the commitment of 13 members to back the bipartisan letter that was sent this week," said WUD President Tom Barcellos. The letter attracted a total of 231 signatures from both Republicans and Democrats, representing more than half of the House. "This is a very significant show of strength on what is a very critical issue for California dairy families and farmers throughout the country."

WUD was joined by more than 100 agricultural organizations from throughout the country in supporting the letter. Congressman Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) authored the letter to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers outlining strong concerns about the negative impact the proposed rule will have on farms across the country.

The EPA and USACE proposed rule would redefine the scope of federal power under the CWA, giving the CWA jurisdiction over almost all physical areas with a connection to downstream navigable waters. This would put features such as ditches, natural or man-made ponds, flood plains, and prairie potholes, among others, under federal control. The members say the new rule would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions and is based on incomplete scientific and economic analyses.

"EPA’s overreach is already causing real harm for farmers and stalling business development across our country," said Congressman Collins. "When I visit with farmers in my district, the heavy burdens under the Clean Water Act come up each and every time. When the bureaucrats at the EPA decide to call a divot in the ground that fills with rain a ‘navigable waterway’ under the CWA, we know our federal government has run amuck. The fact that the EPA and USACE are now looking to formally broaden the definition of ‘navigable waters’ is an insult to hard working farmers all across this country."

"The EPA’s proposed rule is going to cause more harm than good," said Congressman Schrader. "By adding yet another layer of unnecessary regulatory burden on our agriculture and business communities, this proposal will further hinder our country’s economic recovery and stifle job creation. The Clean Water Act is working, but this rule will create needless confusion based on bad science. I hope the administration acknowledges our concerns and and heeds the advice of myself and my colleagues when we say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."