Weekly Column

Feb 06 2023

Government Overreach

I am always working to ensure that federal policies make sense for communities in Nebraska. Nebraskans know all too well that rules crafted by career bureaucrats rarely benefit us — in fact, they often harm us.

That’s especially true when it comes to regulations over our state’s resources. Washington doesn’t understand The Good Life like we do. For generations, private landowners in Nebraska have proven to be good stewards of our natural resources.

A prime example of government overreach that unfairly handicaps Nebraska producers is the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which I’ve been fighting since my first term in the Senate. President Obama’s WOTUS rule is the federal government at its worst: it encroaches on families, communities, and businesses by its brazen intrusion into Nebraska’s precious water resource.

In 2015, the Obama Administration published an unprecedented expansion of the federal definition of “waters of the U.S.,” giving the federal government jurisdiction over a state resource: our water. Privately owned land containing ponds, puddles, and even dry ditches would be regulated by the federal government. This needless landgrab would only place more people under restrictive regulations and fines.

This year the U.S. Supreme Court will examine how “waters of the U.S.” is defined, determining the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation authority in this space. Uncertain and excessive interpretations have harmed producers and landowners across the country. In Sackett vs. EPA, the Court will rule for or against a couple in Idaho who were forced to obtain a Clean Water Act permit to build a home on their own private property — even though their land had no surface water connection to a body of water.

The Trump Administration rescinded Obama’s WOTUS rule — but when President Biden took office, he reversed that trajectory. The President issued a new rule that would allow the EPA to make case-by-case determinations of what is considered a water of the U.S.

The bottom line? This administration is determined to impose an overly restrictive rule before the Supreme Court has a chance to decide the case. At a time when so many are struggling to get by, we should be limiting the government’s ability to unilaterally pile on more excessive regulations.

The federal government shouldn’t have the power to regulate Nebraska’s water — we should. We know better than Washington how to use and manage our state’s natural resources. That’s why I partnered with my friend Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) in introducing legislation to overturn President Biden’s WOTUS rule.

I am committed to stopping this reckless regulation in its tracks. In the past, I’ve helped introduce legislation that would require administrations to consult states and stakeholders before imposing regulations on state-owned water resources. I’ve also cosponsored a bill targeting the flawed science used by the EPA to expand its definition of “waters of the U.S. 

There is no question that WOTUS would unfairly hurt Nebraska’s agriculture producers, home builders, and small businesses. Washington doesn’t know our state like we know it. I promise that I’ll keep fighting damaging federal restrictions on our state and on our people as long as I have the honor of serving as your Senator.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

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