Inhofe Vows To Derail EPA’s Water Takeover


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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The EPA unveiled a major regulation last week that would greatly expand the agency’s control over bodies of water in the U.S., but not if Sen. Jim Inhofe has anything to say about it.

Inhofe has vowed to push legislation to the Senate floor that would prevent the EPA from expanding federal control over U.S. waters, especially waters located on privately-held lands.

“The huge expansion in federal authority under the final rule means that it is more important than ever for Congress to act,” the Oklahoma Republican wrote in a Fox News op-ed. Last month, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, to rein in EPA’s attempt to use the Clean Water Act to expand federal control while protecting those waters that need to be protected to keep pollution from reaching traditional navigable waters.”

“I intend to move S. 1140 through the EPW Committee as soon as possible this summer,” write Inhofe, who heads up the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “I will not allow EPA to advance its agenda on controlling private lands, and will work with my colleagues for a veto proof majority in support of this legislation.”

The EPA released a final rule last week that expands the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to include waters not previously under federal control. Such waters include potholes, streams, some wetlands, ditches and even big puddles. Republicans have argued the rule allows the EPA to essentially regulate water in people’s backyards.

EPA officials, however, have argued the WOTUS rule is needed to clear up uncertainty created in the wake of two previous Supreme Court rulings. The agency also said the WOTUS rule “does not create any new permitting requirements, maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.”

But the EPA’s own regulatory impact analysis of the rule shows an “estimated increase of between 2.84 and 4.65 percent in positive jurisdictional determinations (JDs) annually.” This represents the increased amount of waters that will fall under EPA’s permitting process every year.

Yet, the EPA maintains the WOTUS rule actually “narrows” the scope of waters it can regulate. Officials have stressed that the rule will also create no new burdens for farmers — who were some of the rule’s biggest opponents.

“Normal farming and ranching — including planting, harvesting, and moving livestock — have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation, and the Clean Water Rule doesn’t change that,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in a blog post.

“What the rule does is simple: it protects clean water, and it provides clarity on which waters are covered by the Clean Water Act so they can be protected from pollution and destruction,” McCarthy wrote.

But Inhofe disagrees with the agency’s characterization of the WOTUS rule. Inhofe says the rule “hugely expands the ability of this aggressive agency to disregard the conservation efforts of American states and interfere with the daily lives and property of the American people.”

“Not only does this final rule break promises EPA has made, but it claims federal powers even beyond what EPA originally proposed a year ago,” Inhofe wrote in his op-ed. “This will drastically affect—for the worse — the ability of many Americans to use and enjoy their property.”

Inhofe plans on moving quickly to get legislation opposing the WOTUS rule to the Senate floor. But even if the bill is passed out of the House and Senate, it’s likely to be vetoed by President Obama.

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