September 14, 2015

EPA Water Grab Must Be Permanently Blocked

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson recently issued a temporary injunction blocking the controversial U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "Waters of the United States" rule, which otherwise would have gone into effect in all 50 states.  The states, not the federal government, have always had primary jurisdiction over the allocation, management and use of water.  This short-term victory underscores the need for Congress to act quickly to permanently block the Administration's harmful attempt to exert jurisdiction over virtually all of our water. 

Under the court's recent preliminary injunction, the 13 states, including Idaho, that were parties in the suit against the regulations will temporarily be exempted.  This action is essential because the Administration's water grab is harmful to our economy and goes far beyond the legal scope of what Congress intended in the Clean Water Act.  The rule sets a dangerous precedent, subverts state water sovereignty and jeopardizes private property rights by significantly expanding federal authority- allowing the EPA to regulate nearly every stream, ditch, pond and puddle on state and local lands, as well as private property.  The court's decision comes as no surprise as the Supreme Court has repeatedly rebuked similar efforts.   

Congress must act immediately on S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act.  I co-sponsored this bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by 37 other Senators including fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch.  S. 1140 would rein in the EPA's misguided attempt to exceed the bounds of its statutory power.  S. 1140 would prevent implementation of the final "Waters of the United States" rule and direct the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redo the final rule.  Any new rule must adhere to the principles that waters of the U.S. are limited to truly navigable waters.  The legislation would prevent the EPA from exerting control over the isolated ponds; stormwater, floodwater and wastewater management systems; agricultural irrigation systems and virtually all other non-navigable water bodies that the agencies are seeking to control.

This needed legislation would make the limitations on the federal government's authority over our water even more clear.  The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation requiring the Administration to withdraw the rule.  As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I supported the committee's passage of S. 1140 out of the committee.  Now, the Senate must act.  

While the actions in the courts are a short-term victory, I will continue to work with my colleagues to enact a legislative fix to permanently block this harmful rule.  Maintaining clean water is an ongoing necessity, but EPA's jurisdictional grab of our waterways violates its statutory authority and congressional intent and must be stopped.  

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