Back in June, The Hill reported on a proposed EPA rule which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle worry could mean an expansive power grab for the feds and the loss of personal property rights for farmers, ranchers, and other property owners.th

The proposed rule known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) seeks to establish which bodies of water are subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The definition of WOTUS has been the source of long-standing controversy due to the EPA’s desire to interpret the term rather broadly.  Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 have rejected the EPA’s overreach on this issue.

Lawmakers, farmers, and ranchers are concerned that an overly broad interpretation of WOTUS could lead to the regulation of ditches, glorified mud puddles, and backyard ponds and restrict landowners from performing basic activities on their property in the name of pollution control.

The Hill indicates that a group of 231 U.S. House members, mostly Republican but including 19 Democrats, sent a letter to the EPA and Army Corp requesting that the departments withdraw the rule.  The representatives wrote,

“The rule would place features such as ditches, ephemeral drainages, ponds (natural or man-made), prairie potholes, seeps, flood plains, and other occasionally or seasonally wet areas under federal control.”

The group followed up their letter with the passage of a bill in the U.S. House on September 9th by a vote of 262-152 which would halt implementation of the proposed rule.

The Obama administration issued a veto threat before the vote, however, the bill is not expected to gain traction in the Democrat controlled Senate.  A group of 30 Republican Senators had introduced similar legislation back in June, but like the House bill, the legislation is unlikely to make it to a vote in the Senate.

The Heritage Foundation has provided some insight into the sneaky means by which the EPA is going about its WOTUS rule making.  The Obama administration claims the rule is based on a scientific study created by the EPA called Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence.  But the EPA released the proposed rule before the study was finalized calling into question whether the rule has any basis in science.

Heritage points out that by jumping the gun on their rule making, the EPA undermines the very study which was meant to give credibility to the final regulation.  Heritage writes,

“The EPA has a strong incentive to avoid making major changes to the draft scientific report even if the scientific panel or the public have feedback that would necessitate such changes. If these changes were made, the agency would be admitting that the proposed rules are not based on sound science.”

The EPA’s action with respect to its scientific study signals that the WOTUS rule is not about pollution control as much as it is about government control of private property.

This sentiment seems to be shared on Capital HIll by both Democrats and Republicans as evidenced by two quotes provided in The Hill’s September 9th coverage.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) said,

“I have heard from many of my constituents that this rule would force them to prove that large mud puddles and ditches on their property are not federally regulated waters.  I support this bill because sometimes, a mud puddle is just a mud puddle.”

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W. Va.) who The HIll notes is “one of the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle” said,

“’The only certainty that these regulations provide is the sure knowledge that under them, anyone undertaking any activity so much as a ditch in the United States will have to deal with the bureaucracy known as the EPA.”

The EPA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until October 20, 2014.  Instructions for submitting your comments to the EPA can be found HERE.

Read The Hill’s coverage of this issue HERE and HERE.

The Heritage Foundation’s article, “EPA and the Corp Ignoring Sound Science on Critical Clean Water Act Regulations” can be found HERE.