NCBA: 170 Members of Congress Attempt to Hold Agencies Accountable
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of 170 members of Congress, led by Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Tim Holden (D-Pa.), issued a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Corps) Jo-Ellen Darcy to express concern regarding an attempt by the agencies to expand their jurisdiction over U.S. waters. Specifically, EPA and the Corps sent a draft “guidance” document to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for regulatory review to identify waters subject to jurisdiction under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The members of Congress agree that the “guidance” goes beyond clarifying the scope of U.S. waters subject to Clean Water Act programs. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon said EPA is continuing business as usual, but Congress is pushing back.
“We are grateful for the efforts of 170 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to hold these agencies accountable,” said Lyon. “If EPA has its way, government overreach will continue to financially devastate farmers and ranchers across the country. Giving EPA the go-ahead to regulate every little drop of water in the United States is absurd.”
After the Supreme Court limited jurisdiction of waters in the CWA in two court cases, the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) was introduced in the House by former Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and in the Senate by former Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). Those bills would have removed the word “navigable” from the definition of “waters of the United States,” which would have given EPA and the Corps virtually limitless jurisdiction over every kind of water whether it was a puddle, ditch, mudflat or otherwise, according to Lyon. She said EPA’s best bet for greater control is a “guidance” document, but Congress is holding the agencies accountable to their statutory authority.
“The agencies cannot, through ‘guidance,’ change the scope and meaning of the Clean Water Act or the statutes implementing regulations,” the members of Congress penned. “If the administration seeks statutory changes to the Clean Water Act, a proposal must be submitted to Congress for legislative action. If the administration seeks to make regulatory changes, a notice and comment rulemaking in required. We are very concerned by the action contemplated by the agencies…”