Wicker Urges Administration to Drop Proposed Rule for U.S. Waters

Power Grab Threatens to Infringe on the Rights of Mississippi’s Property Owners

June 23, 2014

A controversial new rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could expand federal authority in ways that drastically interfere with Mississippians’ lives. The agencies want to broaden the definition of “waters of the United States,” which determines the bodies of water that are covered by the Clean Water Act. Specifically, small streams, farm ditches, wetlands, and ponds could be subject to costly and time-consuming permits and requirements.

More Authority for Washington Bureaucrats

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 proposed rule would allow Washington bureaucrats to have influence over bodies of water traditionally under the scope of state and local authorities.

The impact of such federal intrusion could take a toll on economic growth, presenting major challenges for local officials. Counties, for example, could have trouble properly maintaining ditches and flooding precautions. Private citizens’ property rights could be curtailed as environmental groups looking to use the expansive rule in federal court draw landowners into litigation. For the more than 15,000 beef producers in Mississippi, even cattle grazing near a mud hole or pond could be regulated by Washington.

Less Transparency in Rulemaking Process

Given the rule’s far-reaching consequences, it is disappointing that EPA and the Corps have failed to follow the proper procedural actions, such as consulting with stakeholders and evaluating regulatory alternatives. A rushed approach suggests the Obama Administration is more interested in pursuing a radical agenda than a transparent and fair rulemaking process.

The Clean Water Act has protected U.S. waters since 1972 using time-honored definitions. A rule by the Administration that drastically expands the “waters of the United States” provision would not only challenge the intent of Congress but also defy the decisions of the Supreme Court, which has ruled on the provision twice.

Senate Bill Would Stop Overreach

There is strong support in Congress to prevent EPA and the Corps from increasing their jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. On June 19, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced the “Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014” to stop the agencies’ proposed rule from being finalized. The bill is similar to an amendment considered during last year’s debate on the “Water Resources Development Act” (WRDA) prohibiting the agencies from this expansion of federal authority. I am a cosponsor of Sen. Barrasso’s legislation and voted in favor of the related WRDA amendment.

In an economy desperate for growth, a regulatory onslaught is the wrong way to encourage jobs and investment. Onerous federal mandates and requirements ultimately saddle consumers with higher prices and leave job creators with more uncertainty.