Stopping EPA’s water power grab

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers issued a proposed rule to “clarify” waters that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. However, this attempted clarification has made the issue murkier than ever. The proposed rule seeks to expand the term “waters of the United States,” which are those waters that are regulated under the law. This move would seem to dramatically expand the EPA’s authority over regulating waterways and place even more small streams, creeks, manmade ponds, and nearby wetlands under the agency’s control.


Time and time again we have seen overreach from the federal government expanding into nearly every aspect of our lives. I am concerned about this broadening of the scope of the EPA and that it may result in encroachment upon private property rights. Homebuilder and livestock groups have also spoken out in opposition to the rule and called it an expansion of the Clean Water Act due to additional permitting requirements.


If the EPA is set on continuing to expand their reach through excessive regulation, Congress must act. Just a few weeks ago, I signed on as cosponsor of H.R. 3377, the Defense of Environment and Property Act. This legislation would preserve the rights of states to have jurisdiction over waters within their boundaries and would also prohibit the EPA from expanding or interpreting the definition of “waters of the United States” under the law unless authorized by Congress.


We all have a shared goal of ensuring clean, safe water and preserving waterways like the Chesapeake Bay, the James River, and the Shenandoah River that are important to our communities. From my experience in the Sixth District, there is likely no one more interested in protecting water quality than the farmers who depend on it to grow their crops and water their livestock. However, this rule would likely hit farmers particularly hard, and forcing more time consuming and costly regulations on farmers, local communities, and small businesses is not the solution.


As the public comment period on this rule opens, I urge the EPA to consider all of the implications of this rule on farmers, landowners, and local economies. I will continue to examine the impacts of this rule on waterways in the Sixth District. Protecting America’s waterways is critical, but what we need are common sense policies that will protect water quality without limiting economic growth and unfairly over-regulating local agricultural producers and economies – not more power grabs by the EPA.