Tags: Barack Obama | EPA | more | smaller | waterways | rules | grab

GOP Slams New EPA Water Rules as Another Obama 'Power Grab'

By    |   Wednesday, 27 May 2015 07:29 PM

Republicans blasted the Obama administration on Wednesday after the EPA issued new rules to protect small streams, tributaries, and wetlands from pollution and development that House Speaker John Boehner called "a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs."

"The rule is being shoved down the throats of hard-working people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell," the Ohio Republican said.

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar charged that the new regulations under the Environmental Protection Agency were based on "a foundation of pseudo-science, deception, and lawlessness."

"The EPA has solidified itself as a rogue wing of Obama’s far-left army of environmental extremists," the congressman said. "Like many of the president’s other executive overreaches, I doubt this new regulation will withstand judicial review.

"Hard-working Americans don’t deserve to have such a terrible proposal implemented by executive decree."

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven warned that the guidelines probably won't make it to the courts because Republicans will "continue our efforts to either rescind the rule through legislation or defund it through the appropriations process."

Under a set of guidelines known as the "Waters of the United States," the restrictions would grant the EPA wide control over designating which smaller waterways would fall under federal protection.

They were developed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and will affect drinking water for as many as for 117 million Americans.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rules provided needed clarification after Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 had left the scope of the Clean Water Act uncertain.

The decisions left 60 percent of nation's streams and millions of acres of wetlands without clear federal protection, McCarthy said.

Waters with a "direct and significant" connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected would be covered under the new rules, McCarthy said.

"Major economic sectors, from manufacturing and energy production to agriculture, food service, tourism and recreation, depend on clean water to function and flourish," McCarthy said in a blog post on the EPA's website.

The rules would "make clear our goal is to stay out of agriculture's way," she said.

For instance, a tributary must show evidence of flowing water to be protected — like a bank or a high-water mark. Then, the regulations would take effect, requiring a permitting process only if a business or landowner took steps that polluted or destroyed the waters.

President Barack Obama said the regulations provided clear rules for business and industry and "will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable."

Environmentalists praised the changes, with Margie Alt, executive director with Environment America, calling them "the biggest victory for clean water in a decade."

Republicans, farm groups and business organizations have attacked the rules since they were first proposed last year. Farmers said they feared that every stream, puddle and ditch on their private land could now be subject to federal oversight.

The new rules would designate many of these small waterways as "regional treasures."

Earlier this month, the House voted to block the regulations, and a bipartisan group of 12 senators proposed legislation on April 30 to exclude certain small waterways — including isolated ponds, ditches, and wastewater management systems — from any new EPA rules.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said his panel would consider a Senate bill to force the EPA to withdraw and rewrite the rules this summer.

"Despite their assurances, it appears that EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have failed to keep their promises to Congress and the American people," Inhofe, a member of the bipartisan group, said Wednesday. "In fact, instead of fixing the overreach in the proposed rule, remarkably, EPA has made it even broader."

Other Republicans ripped the EPA rules as an "overreaching power grab" by the Obama administration that would raise expenses, create confusion over which bodies of water would be protected, and cut jobs.

"The Obama administration has hit our nation and South Dakota with yet another devastating blow," said Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Senators have also "seen alarming evidence that suggests the EPA influenced the public comment period using questionable practices" that the chamber hopes to address in the coming weeks, Thune said.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said that, "with half of all of the wetlands in the United States, Alaska is directly in the sights of the federal bureaucrats back in Washington, D.C., who will now be able to make decisions from more than 4,000 miles away about how we develop almost any part of our state."

Montana Sen. Steve Daines accused the administration with "pushing forward its extreme agenda with little regard for its devastating impacts on Montanans.

"By expanding the EPA’s powers to regulate virtually any spot across the country that is occasionally wet, this new rule has the potential to cripple Montana’s agriculture and natural resources industries, hurt Montana jobs and threaten Montanans' property rights," he said.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said the regulations were "further proof that the Obama administration has little regard for rural America, both as an important sector of the economy and as responsible stewards of the environment.

"They further establish the EPA’s ability to regulate farmland, effectively tying farmers' hands on everything from when to plant, how often they can run a tractor, and regulating mud puddles on their farms," he said.

West Virginia Rep. David McKinley charged that the rules would only lead to "more bureaucratic bullying, excessive burdens, and fewer jobs" because the federal government would now have "the authority to regulate 'bodies of water' that are nothing more than drainage ditches."

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert said all his Lone Star State residents needed right now was more federal regulation.

Torrential rains over the Memorial Day weekend have killed at least 10 people in Texas and Oklahoma. Record floods have destroyed hundreds of homes and swept away bridges — even unearthed a coffin from a Houston cemetery — before washing ashore on the banks of a bayou in the city.

"Water seems to be everywhere and people need help to recover from the floods," Gohmert said. "They do not need a bureaucrat coming up with orders to cease and desist with a SWAT team to stop people from using their own land.

"At a time when nationally our economy is still staggering, this additional federal power-grab will overburden businesses and farmers, further suppressing jobs and our financial situation," he added.

"Farmers, local property owners and small businesses should not need to go through another layer of federal red tape to do what needs to be done on a local property."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Republicans blasted the Obama administration on Wednesday after the EPA issued new rules to protect small streams, tributaries, and wetlands from pollution and development that House Speaker John Boehner called "a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs."
EPA, more, smaller, waterways, rules, grab, power, confusing, GOP, regulations, Republicans
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 07:29 PM
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