Hoeven Continues Work to Eliminate Proposed Waters of the U.S. Regulation

Minnkota Power President Testifies about Increased Uncertainty, Costs for ND Industries, Consumers

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today continued working to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation. At a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, Minnkota Power Cooperative President and CEO Mac McLennan testified that the proposed regulation would cause increased regulatory uncertainty and costly delays for small businesses, including rural electric cooperatives.

“The EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule would have real impacts on not only farmers and ranchers, but small businesses across North Dakota, including our rural electric cooperatives,” said Hoeven. “The EPA’s proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act is causing uncertainty and unnecessarily exposing industries across our state to burdensome and costly regulations.”

As an example, McLennan cited Minnkota Power’s $353 million transmission line project that was delayed by regulatory uncertainty. Permitting delays increased the cost of the project by $30 million, costs that were passed on to consumers. 

Hoeven has been working to eliminate the proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation, which would bring almost every acre of wet ground under federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the senator is working to defund the entire regulation through the appropriations process. Hoeven is also working to eliminate the regulation through authorizing legislation. In 2014, the senator cosponsored the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, a bill that would prevent the EPA from finalizing the regulation. Hoeven is working with his colleagues to reintroduce similar legislation this year.

In December, Congress took an important step in an 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. 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.

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.