The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today released a report that exposes the administration’s reckless and unlawful actions in enforcing the Clean Water Act. The report shows in detail how the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have used an overly expansive interpretation of their authority to regulate ‘waters of the U.S.’
The case studies presented in the report reflect the serious concerns we have raised for more than two years now: the new ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule takes the EPA’s and Corps’ longstanding regulatory overreach and gives it a new name. The agencies have persistently and unlawfully stretched the limited authority Congress gave them, even to the point of regulating ordinary plowing, a normal farming activity exempted by Congress. They have even claimed authority to regulate tire ruts and puddles found on the farm.
The Waters of the U.S. rule, now stayed in federal court, will cement that lawless expansion of authority unless Congress acts to stop it. The time to rein in these agencies is now.
The committee report shows numerous and disturbing examples of agency staff overstepping their authority: One farmer is ordered to abandon his field because his ordinary plowing is declared a violation of the Clean Water Act. Another is told he must preserve tire ruts caused by his own vehicle as a wetland, never to disturb them again. Still another farmer is ordered to abandon his plans to plant fruit trees because he had not planted trees on his land before.
Eleven senators last year wrote to the EPA and Corps. They told the agencies that they would watch carefully how they implemented existing law, even before the WOTUS rule takes effect. They told the agencies if they did not provide clarity or eroded traditional exemptions, they could move against the rule. This report is the proof.
It’s as clear to us now as it has ever been: It’s time for the Senate to Ditch the Rule. The Senate should once again take up S. 1140 at its earliest opportunity.”
Zippy Duvall is the President of the American Farm Bureau Federation