January 27, 2021

Crapo and Risch: A Return to Obama WOTUS Rule Would Impede States’ Rights, Hurt Farmers and Ranchers

Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (both R-Idaho) joined Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to introduce a Senate resolution affirming the need to uphold the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection rule, which replaced the misguided Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that gave the federal government unprecedented power over Idaho’s land and water. 

“For years, I have pushed back against extreme levels of federal overreach, including the Obama-Biden WOTUS rule,” said Crapo.  “The Obama-era WOTUS rule was nothing short of a federal government power grab and seizure of state’s rights and private property rights of individuals.  The Supreme Court has already spoken to make clear that ‘navigable’ waters can be regulated, and the Trump Administration formulated a rule that fits within those guidelines.  Momentary puddles, ditches and groundwater are not navigable, and the federal government should stay out of decisions best made by state and local on-the-ground experts for effective and environmentally-sound water quality management policies.”

“The 2015 WOTUS rule subjecting temporary puddles to the same federal regulation as navigable waterways was demonstrably bad policymaking and an egregious overstep by the federal government,” said Risch.  “The 2020 Navigable Waters Protection rule signaled a return to common sense.  It would be senseless to vacate it.”

“When the Obama-Biden administration attempted to regulate nearly 97% of the land in Iowa with their WOTUS rule, I fought back and stood up for the livelihoods of hardworking Americans.  We won that fight; a new, more flexible WOTUS rule was put in place.  Now, the Biden Administration is working at a rapid pace to undo this work,” said Ernst.  “Everyone should agree that clean water should be a national priority.  But I can’t stand by and allow for another Washington power grab that will make it harder for Iowans to farm, ranch, and build.  I’m urging my colleagues to join me in standing up for workers, farmers, manufacturers, and businesses.”

Additional cosponsors of the resolution include Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), John Barasso (R-Wyoming), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin).


Background:

In 2015, the Obama administration finalized a rule that defined all bodies of water, including ephemeral streams created by rainfall, as subject to federal government regulation.  This created significant confusion and burdensome red tape for Idaho’s agriculture industry and many others.  The Idaho Delegation had been a key proponent of a rewrite of the rule to more responsibly reflect the role of state and local jurisdictions.

The Trump administration proposed a rule to replace the Obama administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule with a new rule that provided much-needed predictability and certainty for farmers by establishing clear and reasonable definitions of what qualifies as a “water of the United States.”  The new Navigable Waters Protection Rule was  finalized last year.

On day one of his administration, President Biden signed an executive order that would roll back the Trump administration’s executive order which began the process of rescinding Obama’s WOTUS rule.  That’s why Crapo and Risch joined this resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the Navigable Waters Protection rule should not be withdrawn or vacated.

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