Inhofe and Fallin criticize EPA overreach on WOTUS

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works (EPW), said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule on the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) is “flawed.”

“Since the beginning of the new Congress, my committee has been committed to providing rigorous oversight of EPA’s new rule defining ‘waters of the United States,” Inhofe said. “This began with a bicameral hearing in early February, where EPA Adm. Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy admitted the WOTUS rule is flawed, inconsistent, and ambiguous and promised to ameliorate and address the concerns of states, local governments and agriculture.  Those concerns mounted as my committee continued to review the rule in four subsequent hearings.”

Inhofe said that despite their assurances, that EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to keep their promises to Congress and the American people and instead of fixing the overreach in the proposed rule, the EPA has made it even broader.

“This makes it more important than ever for Congress to act,” Inhofe said. “In April, I stood with a bipartisan group of Senators to unveil S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, to rein in EPA’s attempt to use the Clean Water Act to expand federal control over land and water.  Sen. Dan Sullivan, Chairman of the Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife Subcommittee, held a legislative hearing on the bill that underscored the importance of keeping the focus of the Clean Water Act on clean water and called out EPA’s attempt to use the rule as a tool for habitat protection.

“The EPA has set themselves up to increase federal control over private lands, and I will not allow it.  Our committee is planning for a markup on S. 1140 this summer, as we continue our work to halt EPA’s unprecedented land grab and refocus its job on protecting traditional navigable waters from pollution.”

Under the final rule, EPA has decided that it can regulate isolated wetlands and ponds in farmer’s fields by designating them “regional treasures.”

Since the 2001 Supreme Court decision in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001), agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service have used conservation partnerships and land purchases to maintain isolated waters for bird habitat, including prairie potholes and playa lakes.  However, in the final rule, EPA has decided that by declaring a farmer’s field a “regional water treasure” the federal government can put partnership and land purchases aside and simply regulate private property.  Under the final rule, isolated bodies of waterwill be considered regulated “systems.” As a result, the final rule expands federal control over thousands of farmer’s fields in the Midwest and elsewhere.

Governor Mary Fallin agreed.

“Two things are immediately clear about the EPA’s new WOTUS rules,” Fallin said. “First, they represent the expansion of federal power over the nation’s waters at the expense of property owners and states.  Second, the EPA released these without regard to state or local interests, and oftentimes in direct opposition to the will of states that expressed concern and alarm over the nature of these rules.

“I continue to believe these rules will have a negative impact on economic development, and will slow down improvements and installation of critical infrastructure. Because of the flawed development of these rules and lack of a clear implementation strategy, projects in Oklahoma may be hamstrung by this extra layer of federal red tape. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has rightfully expressed his intention to explore legal action to prevent these new rules from harming our state.”