Wicker, Cochran Cospsonor Bill to Stop EPA “Waters of the U.S.” Regs

Miss. Senators Cosponsor Bill to Stop EPA-Army Corps Regulatory Scheme

June 19, 2014

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., today cosponsored legislation to stop a far-reaching regulatory scheme that would expand the federal government’s regulation of water sources.

Wicker and Cochran are supporting legislation to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing its “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulatory proposal.  The rule, unveiled in February, is intended to clarify the definition of waters subject to government oversight under the Clean Water Act.

“A Washington takeover of our state’s streams, ditches, ponds, and wetlands could have harmful consequences for our economy and pose major challenges for Mississippians,” Wicker said. “This federal intrusion could even force the more than 15,000 beef producers in Mississippi to seek federal permission to graze their cattle near a mud hole or pond. Like many of our state’s landowners, small businesses, and municipalities, I am opposed to this extreme example of the Obama Administration’s regulatory overreach.”

“The Waters of the United States rule fits the model set by federal agencies during the Obama administration.  In this case, it amounts to a brazen attempt by the federal government to extend its power over virtually all water sources.  The public, the agriculture sector, homebuilders and other industries are right to be alarmed by this proposal.  This rule needs to be stopped,” Cochran said.

The legislation cosponsored by the Mississippi Senators would stop a joint EPA-Army Corps regulatory proposal, which was intended to clarify a so-called guidance document issued by the two agencies to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act.  Since its rollout, however, it is clear that the WOTUS plan would effectively eliminate the “navigable waters” provisions of the Clean Water Act that limits federal authority.  Instead, the new proposal would greatly expand government regulatory and permitting control to streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds and ditches.

In addition to stopping the EPA and Army Corps from finalizing the WOTUS rule, the legislation would also prevent the agencies from using the proposed rule or any substantially similar rule or guidance document in any other rulemaking or regulatory decision.

The bill was authored by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). In addition to Cochran and Wicker, it is cosponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), David Vitter (R-La.) John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-S.D.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

For years, Wicker and Cochran have been critical of the EPA’s initial guidance document as an attempt to get around the more rigorous rule making process that requires public input and stricter scrutiny.  The Mississippi Senators cosponsored the Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act (S.1006) to prevent the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers from using the guidance document, finalized in February 2012, to change legal responsibilities under the Clean Water Act.