News Releases

Monday, June 23, 2014

Isakson, Chambliss Introduce Bill to Halt EPA Takeover of Water

Legislation blocks EPA from expanding federal authority over all U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., joined 28 other senators in introducing legislation to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating nearly all private and state water in the United States.

The Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014 prevents the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from finalizing their March 2014 proposed rule which would significantly expand federal authority under the Clean Water Act.

“The EPA wants to regulate not just ‘navigable’ waters, but every water,” said Isakson. “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 Chambliss, 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.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation officially endorsed the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014:

“The EPA/COE proposal raises serious questions. As a constitutional matter, the agencies are asserting an authority not granted them by Congress; in fact, the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation recently called for bipartisan support to prevent Congress from ceding such authority to the agency. As a practical matter, it will mean increased enforcement against farmers, greater expenses for permitting, potential delays in managing their operations, and the unquestioned exposure of legal liability attendant with lawsuits from activists.  Your legislation seeks to prevent such an outcome and deserves strong, bipartisan support. We applaud your leadership in this effort and will continue to work with you in preventing this regulation from being promulgated,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation in their letter of endorsement.

The legislation was introduced by Senators Pat Roberts, R-Kan., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., David Vitter, R-La., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Roy Blunt, R-Miss., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

In addition to Isakson and Chambliss, the 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.

Background:

On March 25, 2014, EPA and the Corps released their 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.

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.

The proposed rule would provide EPA and the Corps, as well as environmental groups, with a powerful tool to delay and prevent development and land use activities on property owned by homeowners, farms, small businesses, and municipalities.  Federal bureaucrats—and not state and local authorities—could assert control over thousands of streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds, and ditches throughout the country.

###