Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) voted today to advance the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee's bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This important legislation establishes priorities for the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. The bill contains provisions to advance stalled flood control projects, including levee improvements essential to protecting Nebraska's metropolitan drinking water supplies. Senator Fischer also used her opening statement to highlight the need to provide regulatory relief for farmers and ranchers facing federal mandates on water issues.
“I am pleased to support this updated, bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, which is central to addressing needed authorizations, establishing priorities to manage the backlog of Corps projects, and improving performance at the project and agency level,” said Fischer. “There is, however, growing concern – particularly in Nebraska – about overreach and misguided regulatory mandates stemming from the Clean Water Act that I hope the EPW Committee will address. Federal overreach disregards private property rights, preempts management by state and local authorities, and increases permits and paperwork – all while failing to improve protections for our nation’s water resources. I will continue to work on legislative solutions to roll back regulations that hurt American agriculture and reduce our competitiveness.”
Senator Fischer worked closely with three metropolitan area Natural Resource Districts to address needed changes to the law for a flood control project located along the banks of the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers in eastern Nebraska. The area has a significant, long-term flooding problem and levee improvements are needed to provide flood protection to: significant public infrastructure; Nebraska Army National Guard buildings and training areas; drinking water supply infrastructure that supplies drinking water to 50% of Nebraska's population (including the cities of Lincoln and Omaha); and numerous residential buildings.
In her opening statement, Fischer called attention to bipartisan regulatory relief legislation, which has unfortunately not been acted upon by the EPW Committee:
- The Restoring Effective Environmental Protection Act (introduced in the 112th Congress) addresses the duplicative permitting requirement for pesticide applications imposed on producers because of a lawsuit against the EPA. Congress must act to clarify that Clean Water Act permits are not required for pesticide applications that are already safely governed under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
- The FUELS Act, which Senator Fischer is sponsoring, addresses overreach of Clean Water Act regulations aimed at reducing oil discharges. Beginning in May of this year, the EPA will use this authority to require farms to prepare and implement Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (“SPCC”) plans for on-farm fuel storage. SPCC plans will be required for most farms that have a fuel storage capacity of greater than 1,320 gallons. These regulations require secondary containment for some oil-storage units, and certain plans must be certified by a professional engineer. Farmers are seeking a more reasonable exemption threshold and greater ability to self-certify their plans.