‘Waters of the U.S.’ Rule Intrudes upon First District

In 1972, the federal government passed landmark legislation in an effort to restore and maintain our country’s abundant water resources. This legislation, known as the Clean Water Act, entered service as the primary federal law against water pollution, and Congress largely charged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manage it in partnership with state environmental agencies. For more than 40 years, EPA has occupied that position; sometimes faithfully, but more often, aggressively.

The most recent example of EPA’s aggressive behavior has shown in its “Waters of the United States” rule, which it officially published in April. The rule aims to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act, extending the agency’s authority to include small rivers, streams, and ponds. Since releasing its proposal, the rule has rightfully drawn the ire of concerned lawmakers, agricultural producers, state organizations, and citizens.

To me, this issue is a direct intrusion upon Arkansas’ First District, and it is yet another example of the Executive Branch overstepping its authority. EPA states it desires for its new rule “to further clarify” what it considers regulated waters. According to the rule, waters that “have a significant nexus” to already regulated waters face subjection to EPA’s authority. Time and again, the rule has shown significant ambiguity in its wording, likely resulting in the regulation of bodies of water that currently are not.

Groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Counties have also expressed just how harmful and wide-reaching this rule may prove. Even EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe recently stated that the agency “may have messed up” in developing the rule, creating “bonafide, bonafide confusion.”

As if the rule’s ambiguity alone wasn’t problem enough, EPA is seeking comment from other federal agencies during the public comment period. We know interagency communication takes place, so EPA can easily call another agency to articulate its like-minded position in a public comment.

I believe federal agencies should open public comments only to members of the public and review those comments with equal weight. I fear EPA will place a greater priority on a comment from a federal agency than it will on comments from an outside group or a concerned individual.

To stop this potential overreach, I signed on as an original cosponsor of H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014, last month. In a short period of time, the bill has garnered 120 cosponsors in the House to prevent EPA from expanding how it regulates water under the Clean Water Act. We’ve even seen companion legislation in the Senate, so I’m hopeful we place this legislation on the President’s desk as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, I will not accept such rogue behavior from federal agencies because our First District deserves better. I ask that we all make our voices heard to EPA before October 20 by leaving comments at www.epa.gov/uswaters, and I will continue to press the agency in Congress to stop this intrusion.

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