Congress appears to be stepping up to the plate to kill the Environmental Protection Agency’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ water rule (known as the “waters of the United States” or WOTUS rule). Lawmakers just need to bring it home by sending legislation to the president.
In doing so, Congress will be protecting Americans from environmental regulatory overreach that is an attack on property rights and bad for the environment.
The rule has a number of problems. Among them:
- It centralizes water policy in Washington, even though the Clean Water Act clearly protects the role and responsibility of states. States need to play a critical role because they are in the best position to determine the environmental needs of their waters.
- It is expansive in what the agencies consider to be waters that can be regulated by the federal government (i.e., jurisdictional waters), covering almost any type of water, from certain ditches to “streams” that are usually just dry land but hold water after heavy rain.
- By deeming more waters “jurisdictional,” property owners will be required to secure far more permits for ordinary activities such as farming and building homes. Since the costs to secure permits can be excessive, property owners may simply choose not to engage in some of the activities at all.
- The rule is so vague that property owners will be “walking on eggshells” and may be wise to assume that unless expressly included in the agencies’ narrow (and limited) exemptions from regulation, a water is a jurisdictional water.
Legislators appear to be well aware of the major problems with the rule. The House has already passed legislation killing the WOTUS rule and requiring the agencies to start again, and the Senate has queued up a vote on a similar though more expansive bill on Tuesday.
Congress must rein in the EPA’s water rule.