Hoeven Presses EPA Head to Rescind Waters of the U.S. Rule

Hoeven Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators on Legislation to Withdraw the Rule

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Appropriations Committee on Interior and the Environment, Senator John Hoeven Wednesday pressed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to withdraw agency’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, which would bring almost every acre of wet ground under federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction.

Hoeven has been working on two fronts to eliminate the proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation. He is cosponsoring legislation to rescind the rule, and he is also working to use the appropriations process to defund the EPA’s ability to implement the proposed rule.

“The Waters of the U.S. rule has caused problems for our farmers and ranchers, tremendous uncertainty, and I think it should be rescinded,” Hoeven told McCarthy at the hearing. “Undoubtedly, you are hearing many of the same concerns, not only from farmers and ranchers, but from many other industry sectors. I’d encourage you to talk to farmers and ranchers, private land owners, as well as the whole gamut of industry sectors on this rule. I think you’ll find that it is very much a problem for them.”

Today, the senator joined a bipartisan group of farm-state colleagues to reintroduce legislation that would rescind the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule and require the EPA to start the process over with more input from stakeholders. The Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which is being led by Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.),  Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is similar to legislation Hoeven cosponsored in 2014.

Hoeven will also continue to work as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop the rule through the appropriations process. Last year, the senator worked to include language in a 2015 appropriations bill passed in December that defunded the Waters of the U.S. Interpretive Rule, which the EPA issued to narrow the current CWA exemption for general agriculture activities. In effect, defunding the Interpretive Rule means farmers and ranchers can 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.

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.