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Agricultural News

Congress Calls Foul on Obama Administration Plan to Expand Jurisdiction Under Clean Water Act

Tue, 19 Apr 2011 7:01:11 CDT

Congress Calls Foul on Obama Administration Plan to Expand Jurisdiction Under Clean Water Act A bipartisan group of 170 members of Congress, led by Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Tim Holden (D-Pa.), issued a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Corps) Jo-Ellen Darcy to express concern regarding an attempt by the agencies to expand their jurisdiction over U.S. waters. Specifically, EPA and the Corps sent a draft “guidance” document to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for regulatory review to identify waters subject to jurisdiction under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The members of Congress agree that the “guidance” goes beyond clarifying the scope of U.S. waters subject to Clean Water Act programs.

Both the American Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association are pleased with the push back by Congress on this issue.

We have the letter written to the agencies as a PDF file linked below. Click on the PDF LINK at the bottom of this story called Gibbs Holden EPA guidance letter Final to open and read the full letter.

Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau, issued the following statement:

“The American Farm Bureau Federation appreciates the bipartisan support of 170 members of Congress in challenging ‘regulatory guidance’ that the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering for the Clean Water Act. The guidance would take an overly broad view of ‘waters of the U.S.’ It would serve as a road map for EPA and the Corps to designate nearly all water bodies, and even some dry land, as subject to federal regulations that dictate land-use decisions. If unchecked, the guidance would lead to more Clean Water Act permitting requirements, more litigation and less economic growth at a time when our nation needs it most.

“The proper procedure for putting federal policy in place is either by proposing formal rules after taking public comments into consideration or proposing legislation for Congress to consider. This current regulatory guidance effort for the Clean Water Act circumvents that process, implements controversial new policy and expands the federal government’s regulatory reach without public input or Congress’ authorization. We object to this attempt to rewrite the jurisdictional scope of the Clean Water Act and saddle farmers and ranchers with more unnecessary and expensive regulations. We commend all the members of Congress who are standing up for farmers and ranchers and other landowners by signing a letter to EPA and the Corps urging them to reconsider their proposed guidance, and we thank Reps. Bob Gibbs and Tim Holden for leading this effort.”


The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon said EPA is continuing business as usual, but Congress is pushing back.

“We are grateful for the efforts of 170 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to hold these agencies accountable,” said Lyon. “If EPA has its way, government overreach will continue to devastate financially farmers and ranchers across the country. Giving EPA the go-ahead to regulate every little drop of water in the United States is absurd.”

After the Supreme Court limited jurisdiction of waters in the CWA in two court cases, the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) was introduced in the House by former Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and in the Senate by former Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). Those bills would have removed the word “navigable” from the definition of “waters of the United States,” which would have given EPA and the Corps virtually limitless jurisdiction over every kind of water whether it was a puddle, ditch, mudflat or otherwise, according to Lyon. She said EPA’s best bet for greater control is a “guidance” document, but Congress is holding the agencies accountable to their statutory authority.



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