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Senate report says WOTUS expanding federal control

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The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last week released a 38-page report it says details how EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are already expanding federal control over land and water based on their “waters of the United States” rule — which has been stayed in federal court.

Committee Chairmen Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the report demonstrates in detail that the agencies, under the Obama administration, are “running rogue” and it’s time for Congress to rein in the EPA and the Corps.

“Congress shouldn’t wait on the Supreme Court to make the inevitable decision that this agency overreach is illegal,” he said.

The report was prepared by majority committee staff and released on Sept. 20. The committee’s minority staff has not responded to requests for comment.

The EPA stated in an email that it will review the report and respond to Capital Press at an undetermined time. The Army Corps of Engineers responded to requests for comment stating in an email it is unable to comment because the rule is still in litigation, having been stayed by the court.

Despite EPA’s claims that existing exemptions, including exemptions for farming, remain unaffected, the case studies examined by the majority staff demonstrate the falseness of those assurances, according to the report.

The report claims the agencies have narrowed the exemption in practice and simply regulate under another name – such as renaming a ditch a regulated tributary or wetland.

In a written statement, Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the report exposes the administration’s “reckless and unlawful” actions in enforcing the Clean Water Act and shows in detail how EPA and the Corps have used an overly expansive interpretation of their authority to regulate waters.

“The case studies presented in the report reflect the serious concerns we have raised for more than two years. The Waters of the U.S. rule … will cement that lawless expansion of authority unless Congress acts to stop it,” he said.

The report is conclusive evidence of EPA’s continued efforts to expand its jurisdiction over all waters, Tracy Bruner, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a statement.

“While EPA has consistently claimed that the WOTUS rule preserves the exemptions for normal farming and ranching activities, their regulatory track record proves the exact opposite,” he said.

The report shows that EPA and the Corps have and will continue to advance very broad claims of jurisdiction based on discretionary authority to define their own jurisdiction, the committee found.

Inhofe, Farm Bureau and NCBA are calling on 11 senators to follow through on their warning to EPA and the Corps that they would support efforts to revise the WOTUS rule if it were enforced in a way that eroded traditional exemptions.

Inhofe also pointed out that 69 senators — a veto-proof majority — have gone on record with grave concerns regarding the WOTUS rule over the past year, saying it’s time to come together to protect land users and end agency overreach.

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