WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) joined John Barrasso (Wyo.) and 28 of their colleagues today to introduce the “Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014,” legislation to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking over all private and state water in the United States. The bill prevents the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from finalizing their March 2014 proposed rule, which would significantly expand federal authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
“The EPA’s proposed water rule is another blatant overreach into Americans’ private lives and property by the Obama Administration. Not only would it have a devastating impact on Missouri farm families, it would also inflict serious harm on productive activities like the construction of homes, businesses, roads, and even the development of energy,” said Blunt.
“I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill and I’ll continue working with my colleagues to stop the Obama Administration from infringing on Missourians’ private properties” Blunt concluded.
In addition to Blunt and Barrasso, the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators John Boozman (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Dean Heller (Nev.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Thune (S.D.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), David Vitter (La.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).
On March 25, 2014, EPA and the Corps released their proposed rule redefining “waters of the United States” under the CWA. The term “waters of the United States” is the CWA’s threshold provision which determines whether the law’s permitting and regulatory requirements apply to a particular waterbody.
If finalized, the rule would represent a massive land grab by the federal government, since few water bodies would escape the agencies’ broad definition of “waters of the United States.” The proposal effectively eliminates the CWA’s “navigable waters” provision, which Congress included to guarantee limits to federal authority.
The proposed rule would provide EPA, the Corps, as well as environmental groups with a powerful tool to delay and prevent development and land use activities on property owned by homeowners, farms, small businesses, and municipalities. Federal bureaucrats—and not state and local authorities—could assert control over thousands of streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds, and ditches throughout the country.
The proposed rule is the agencies’ latest attempt to achieve unlimited regulatory authority over local waterbodies. During the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) debate in 2013, 52 Senators voted to support an amendment prohibiting a similar effort by the agencies to expand their jurisdiction through a “guidance” document.
The “Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014” updates the WRDA amendment supported by a majority of Senators so that it now prevents finalization of the agencies’ proposed rule. It also tracks the WRDA amendment’s “similar circumstances” provision by preventing EPA and the Corps from using the proposed rule or any substantially similar rule or guidance document in any other rulemaking or regulatory decision.
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