Calls for Passage of Bipartisan Federal Water Quality Protection Act

Click here to watch Sen. Barrasso’s speech.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent release of the final “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule.

Barrasso also highlighted his bipartisan legislation, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140). The bill would direct the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that protects traditional navigable water from water pollution, while also protecting farmers, ranchers and private landowners.

Excerpts of his remarks:

“Last week, our nation observed Memorial Day –we paid tribute to the sacrifices that so many Americans have made to preserve our freedoms.

“Also last week, while members of Congress were back home, the Obama administration snuck out a new rule that takes away freedom—it takes away freedom from Americans all across the country.

“The Environmental Protection Agency released the final version of a new rule that will dramatically increase the agency’s power, and will devastate Americans’ ability to use their own property and their own water.

“With this rule, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency overreaches and ignores the American people.

“The rule is an attempt—an attempt to change the definition of what the Clean Water Act calls ‘waters of the United States.’

“There is bipartisan agreement that Washington bureaucrats have gone way beyond their authority with this new regulation.

“They’ve written this rule so broadly – and with so much uncertainty – that it’s not clear if there are any limits on this agency’s power.

“Now I agree with what the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee has to say—he wrote it in an op-ed that appeared yesterday.

“The Senator from Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee wrote: ‘Not only does this final rule break promises EPA has made, but it claims federal powers even beyond what EPA originally proposed a year ago. This will drastically affect – for the worse – the ability of many Americans to use and enjoy their property.’

“Then it defines tributaries to include any place where you can see an ‘ordinary high water mark’ or what looks like it was once the bank of a creek, a creek body of water. What looks like—not what is—but what looks like.

“Under the rule, the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate something as ‘waters of the United States’ if it falls within a 100-year floodplain of a navigable water. Not navigable water today, but anything within a 100-year floodplain of a navigable water.

“The rule says the agency has to find a ‘significant nexus’ to navigable water.

“So what’s a significant nexus to the EPA? Well, the agency gets to make up its own definition.

“They say it includes something as simple as finding that the water provides ‘life cycle dependent aquatic habitat’ for a species that spends part of its time in a navigable water.

“All of these terms are things that Washington bureaucrats are defining for themselves.

“They decide for themselves that they have the authority.

“So let’s say your property is within 4,000 feet of anything the Environmental Protection Agency decides is a tributary, and your property has a natural pond – or some standing water after heavy rain.

“And let’s say a bird that spends part of its life on the Colorado River decides to hang out near that natural pond, or that standing water that occurred on your property after it rained.

“Under this new regulation, the Environmental Protection Agency now has the power to regulate what you do on that land.

“It’s bad enough that this administration has taken this extraordinary step. It’s bad enough that it tried to sneak out its rule hoping that nobody was paying attention over the Memorial Day time at home.

“There are now reports that the Obama administration may have broken the law.

“Here’s what the New York Times reported on May 18, under the headline, front page of the New York Times, ‘Critics Hear E.P.A.’s Voice in Public Comments.’

“This was an article, front page New York Times, about the public comments that government agencies have to collect when they propose new regulations like this one they’ve done on the waters of the U.S.

“The comment period is supposed to be an opportunity for people who might be harmed by the rules to have their say.

“Well, according to this front page article in the New York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency has twisted the public comments requirement into its own private government funded spin machine.

“The article says: ‘In a campaign that tests the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to counter political opposition from Republicans and enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.’

“This government agency ignored negative comments by Americans who were concerned about the law, who were hurt by the law.

“Then it used taxpayer dollars to lobby liberal groups ‘to flood the agency with positive comments,’ that’s not me, that’s what’s written in the New York Times.

“These were the same phony, ginned up comments it used to justify the dramatic overreach of its new regulations.

“It’s incredible, it’s unacceptable, and I believe, it’s illegal.

“The Environmental Protection Agency would rather skew public comments in its favor, than acknowledge the real concerns that Americans and members of Congress have with this destructive rule.

“These are the concerns of farmers, of ranchers, of hard working families, small businesses across the country.

“There was an interesting column in U.S. News and World Report last Friday.

“The headline was ‘Stop Terrorizing Main Street.’

“The column talked about the damage that all this red tape can do to small businesses.

“It says: ‘when the EPA jumps up and yells ‘boo,’ entrepreneurs cringe. They withdraw. They feel anxious and reconsider plans to start or expand a business. This is bad for our economy.’

“Well, I believe they’re exactly right.

“That’s what Washington does with the uncertainty and the overreach of rules like this one.

“It’s bad for the economy –it does nothing to improve the quality of our water, or the quality of our life.

“There is universal agreement in this country that we should protect America’s navigable waters.

“There is also bipartisan agreement on the best ways for Washington to help do that.

“This isn’t just Republicans against President Obama.

“This is Republicans and Democrats working to protect America’s waterways – and President Obama working instead to expand the power of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.

“Here’s how the newspaper The Hill reported it last Thursday, with an article headlined ‘Democrats buck Obama on water rule.’

“The article says: ‘Dozens of congressional Democrats are joining Republicans to back legislation blocking the Obama administration’s new rule to redefine its jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways.’

“It’s talking about my bill, a bill called the Federal Water Quality Protection Act.

“The bill has 30 co-sponsors in the Senate – Democrats and Republicans alike.

“A similar bill in the House actually passed with the support of 24 Democrats and every Republican.

“So what does the administration have to say to the dozens of Democrats in Congress – the 24 Democrats who voted against the administration? To the millions of Americans – who are concerned about this new regulation?

“According to the article in The Hill, President Obama’s top environmental adviser said, this is of the Democrats who voted for this, ‘The only people with reason to oppose the rule are polluters…’

“So the president believes that the 24 Democrats that voted to support, and the Democrats in the Senate who voted to cosponsor my legislation, are polluters who want to threaten our clean water.

“That’s what the White House thinks of these Democrats in Congress.

“That’s what the White House thinks of anyone who dares to suggest that this rule is bureaucratic overreach. Such arrogance.

“Well, there are a lot of Americans – Democrats and Republicans – who are not going to be intimidated by the Obama administration’s power grab, or its name-calling.

“The Obama administration has ignored the strong bipartisan consensus against this rule – and it’s once again, taking its own, radical approach.

“Instead of moving forward with a rule that fails to represent the interests of many Americans, we should act immediately to pass this bipartisan Federal Water Quality Protection Act.

“This legislation says Yes to clean water – and No to extreme bureaucracy.

“It will protect America’s waterways, while keeping Washington’s hands off of things that it has no business regulating.

“The Environmental Protection Agency would have to consult with the states –to make sure that we’ve got the approach that works best everywhere, not just the approach that Washington likes best.

“They would not be able to just listen to the echo chamber of phony comments concocted by their own lobbying campaign.

“Now this bill gives certainty and clarity to farmers, to hardworking ranchers, to small business owners and their families.

“It makes sure that people can continue to enjoy the beautiful rivers and the lakes that should be preserved and protected.

“This bipartisan bill protects Americans from runaway bureaucracy—unaccountable, unelected.

“It restores Washington’s attention to the traditional waters that were always the focus before.

“The American people don’t need more bureaucratic overreach. We don’t need more red tape.

“Congress should act immediately to stop this outrageous regulation before it goes into effect.

“The Senate should take up and pass this bipartisan Federal Water Quality Protection Act.”