The Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, introduced in the Senate, aims to stop the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing their March 2014 proposed rule, which farm groups say would unnecessarily expand federal authority under the Clean Water Act.
“The EPA wants to regulate not just ‘navigable’ waters, but every water,” said U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the legislation’s co-sponsor in a statement provided by his office. “This is yet another overstep by the administration that will harm not only landowners but our entire agriculture industry in Georgia. I will continue to push to repeal onerous regulations and to prevent the administration from imposing new taxes through more regulations.”
“Bureaucratic decision-making has no place in Georgia farm country,” said Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Landowners have dealt with overreaching federal regulations for too long and this latest move by the administration claiming they are ‘helping’ farmers and landowners is outrageous.”
In March, EPA and the Corps released the proposed rule redefining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The term “waters of the United States” is the Clean Water Act’s threshold provision which determines whether the law’s permitting and regulatory requirements apply to a particular waterbody.
Farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, believe the rule “will illegally expand EPA jurisdiction to millions of acres of once-unregulated farm land, exposing farmers to fines and penalties for ordinary farming activities.”
If finalized, the rule would represent a massive land grab by the federal government, since few water bodies would escape the agencies’ broad definition of “waters of the United States.” The proposal effectively eliminates the Clean Water Act’s “navigable waters” provision, which was included by Congress to guarantee limits to federal authority, according to Isakson’s statement.
The new legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., John Cornyn, R-Texas, John Thune, R-S.D., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Marco Rubio R-Fla., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Roger Wicker, R-Miss., 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., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Mike Lee, R-Utah and Richard Burr, R-N.C.