Hoeven: Congress Takes First Step to Eliminate Proposed Waters of the U.S. Regulation

Year-End Omnibus Appropriations Bill Defunds Interpretive Rule

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said he is working on a two-step process to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation, which would bring almost every acre of wet ground under federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction.

The U.S. Congress took the first step in its recently passed omnibus appropriations bill by defunding the Waters of the U.S. Interpretive Rule, which the EPA issued to implement the Waters of the U.S. regulation for farmers and ranchers. The senator said he will continue to work in the new Congress as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to defund and eliminate the regulation in its entirety.

In effect, defunding the Interpretive Rule means farmers and ranchers can now operate, as they have for years, under the CWA’s exemption from having to get a dredge and fill permit before practicing normal farming and ranching activities such as plowing, seeding and minor drainage.

However, Hoeven said Congress still needs to defund or eliminate the Waters of the U.S. regulation itself because farmers and ranchers, as well as other industries like construction, energy and commercial development, remain exposed to other burdensome and costly regulations in the Waters of the U.S. proposal.

“Defunding the Interpretive Rule is the first step toward making sure our farmers and ranchers can continue to carry out the basic farming and ranching activities they’ve practiced responsibly for generations,” Hoeven said. “Now, we need to focus on eliminating the Waters of the U.S. regulation completely in the new Congress.”

Along with working to defund the Waters of the U.S. regulation, Hoeven will also work to rescind the rule outright with legislation. In 2014, Hoeven cosponsored the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, a bill that would prevent the EPA from finalizing the regulation. He said he will work with colleagues to reintroduce this legislation in the 114th Congress next year.

In October, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, an independent voice for small businesses, concluded that the EPA had used incorrect data in framing the rule, which they said imposes costs directly on small businesses and has a significant economic impact on them. Hoeven cited the SBA’s recommendation that the EPA withdraw the proposed rule as further proof that the regulation would harm job creators.

The EPA released the proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation on April 21, 2014. It includes broad new definitions of the scope of “waters of the United States” that fall under the jurisdiction of the CWA. The proposed definition could apply to a countless number of small wetlands, creeks, stock ponds and ditches that are typically regulated at a state level. This expansion of the EPA’s regulatory authority would have significant economic impacts for property owners who would face new federal permits, compliance costs and threats of fines.