AL congressional delegation disagrees with new EPA Clean Water Rule

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out a new plan Wednesday to expand the Clean Water Act to include more bodies of water.

According to EPA, the 297-page “Waters of the United Sates” (WOTUS) rule ensures that waters protected under the existing Clean Water Act are “more precisely defined, more predictably determined, and easier for businesses and industry to understand,” as two Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 have left the current scope of the law uncertain.

“Today’s rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” Assistant Secretary for the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy said. “This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations.”

However, that’s not the way the Alabama delegation and critics across the country see it, calling it a massive federal government power grab.

“For decades, water quality regulation has been primarily the responsibility of state governments, but this rule would significantly shift that responsibility to the federal government,” U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne told Alabama Today. “This rule would have an especially harmful impact on our farmers and foresters, who could face new compliance requirements and costs.”

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer also expressed his disdain for the rule.

“This expansive rule would allow the EPA to place onerous regulations on almost any body of water. While the EPA claimed to listen to the extensive public outcry over this proposal by making cosmetic changes, the rule is still well beyond EPA’s rightful authority,” Palmer said in a statement issued Wednesday evening.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers joins in the disapproval. According to the congressman’s press secretary, “Congressman Rogers was extremely disappointed the overreaching EPA chose to go forward with the ‘Definition of “Waters of the United States” Under the Clean Water Act,’ despite House passage of H.R. 1732, which Congressman Rogers strongly supported. This rule includes EPA control of puddles and ditches and could hurt family farms and landowners.”

H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act designed to block the implementation of the new EPA rule, was voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives this month with support of all of Alabama’s representatives excluding Rep. Terri Sewell who did not vote. It passed the House on May 11 by a vote of 261-155.

The bill was received in the Senate on May 13, but has yet to be considered. But there’s hope for the legislation, as Alabama’s House members aren’t the only ones concerned with the new EPA Clean Water rule.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby told Alabama Today that he thinks the EPA is overreaching.

“The EPA’s final rule redefining ‘waters of the United States’ is yet another example of the Obama Administration’s overreach. The rule will place thousands of streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds, and ditches throughout the country under the control of Washington bureaucrats instead of private property owners. I have supported legislation in the Senate to prohibit this harmful rule, and I will continue to fight against it as well as other burdensome rules and regulations from the EPA.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions joined seven of his Republican colleagues on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee last April sent a letter to President Barack Obama regarding the then proposed WOTUS rule.

“The scope of CWA jurisdiction is one of the most important regulatory issues facing landowners, businesses, and municipalities today,” the senators wrote. “The proposed ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule will exponentially impede economic recovery and is a significant step in the wrong direction. Mr. President, the decision to move forward would be a clear breach of your promise to cut through red tape.”

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