Within a few short months, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers will publish a final decision on the proposed “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. This proposal, which would expand federal jurisdiction over water, will usher in a dramatic break from the way in which this resource is regulated. Unfortunately, much of the debate concerning this harmful regulation has been clouded by partisan rhetoric.
For these reasons, last weekend, I held a field hearing on federal water regulations in Lincoln, Nebraska. During this hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, we listened to a bipartisan panel of experts who helped us better understand how this proposed rule will affect their local communities. These stakeholders provided valuable insight into the far-reaching impact of excessive regulations, and the way in which these new proposals would affect commerce and water management efforts.
The message was loud and clear — this plan will harm economic growth and restrict the ability of states to effectively manage their precious water resources. In order to understand the alarm from these stakeholders, it is important to appreciate just how radical the WOTUS proposal is.
Originally enacted in 1972, the Clean Water Act grants the federal government authority over bodies of water that are navigable for interstate commerce. However, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are seeking to reinterpret this authority to mean that almost any body of water could be regulated.
In order to do this, the federal government wants to disregard the word “navigable” and broaden the definition to include virtually any area across the country that is occasionally wet. This means that nearly every pond, ditch, and stream could fall under the federal government’s control. Even a rain puddle could be regulated.
Imagine if any body of water were subject to regulation by the federal government.
The Obama administration doesn’t want you to know this until it’s too late. Expanding the meaning of a key term in the Clean Water Act will not, as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy put it, “cut red tape.” It will build a factory for red tape.
Members of the home building community stated during our field hearing that broadening the definition of water will create a slew of new permit requirements and grind projects to a halt. In fact, these stakeholders stated that 25 percent of current home costs are due to regulations. The WOTUS rule will only add more bureaucratic burdens for Nebraskans wanting to achieve the American dream by owning their own home.
Likewise, county officials also fear that cumbersome licensing requirements will impede their ability to manage storm water drainage systems and respond to emergencies in a timely manner. Representatives from the agriculture community also worry that this new regulation will micromanage their ability to utilize groundwater resources.
These statements echoed a common refrain from nearly every stakeholder: this proposal is dangerous.
Nebraskans are keenly aware that their natural resources, especially water, are extremely important. As such, Nebraskans have taken great care to be good stewards of the land and develop effective, efficient, and responsible systems for managing our water.
For this reason, I cosponsored the Preserve the Waters of the United States Act last Congress. This bill aimed to protect the right of states to oversee their own resources. Nebraskans — not the federal government — own the surface and groundwater in the state. I believe it is important that Nebraska retains its right to own and manage its precious water resources.
Moving forward, I am confident that last week’s hearing will continue the conversation. It is imperative that our nation’s water be preserved for future generations. I believe the best way in which to achieve this goal is by protecting our state’s right to govern our own natural resources. I look forward to utilizing the insights provided by the stakeholders. This is important and I will continue to work with my colleagues as we develop responsible and sustainable alternatives to the whims of the federal government.
Deb Fischer is serving her first term and is Nebraska’s senior senator, serving since 2013. In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Fischer is a member of: the Armed Services Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.View origianal article here.