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Thornberry introduces bill to rein in EPA overreach

Bill protects personal property and water rights

Washington, June 29, 2015 | Jon Corley (202-225-3706)

U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) introduced the Federal Regulatory Certainty for Water Act, H.R. 2705, to clarify the definition of “navigable waters” in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to help protect private property owners from regulatory expansion by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). 

“Those who live and work in our part of Texas, especially the farmers and ranchers, understand the importance of clean water and work hard to be good stewards of the environment, but we also understand that personal property and water rights are fundamental to the American way of life, a family’s business, and many people’s livelihoods,” said Thornberry.

For decades, the courts and the EPA have grappled over the scope of the CWA, which simply defines “navigable waters” as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” In May 2015, the EPA and Corps finalized the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which could allow the regulation of almost any wet area on private land that has some arbitrary connection to a navigable body of water. In addition to repealing the misguided EPA/Corps WOTUS rule, Thornberry’s bill redefines “navigable waters” in the CWA as waters that are navigable-in-fact or are permanently flowing bodies of water that physically connect to navigable waters. H.R. 2705 also clarifies what types of waters are excluded from federal jurisdiction. 

“This Administration, the EPA in particular, has shown total disregard for the rights of private citizens. No landowner should have to worry about whether the federal government will get in the way of their business because of the bar ditch behind their house. Since 2013, I have introduced and the House has passed two bills that offered simple, commonsense ways to protect private landowners from regulatory overreach by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Thornberry.

Thornberry has recently supported and the House has passed three other bills that would help rein in EPA regulatory overreach:

H.R. 2028, the “FY 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations bill,” with a provision that would bar the Corps from developing, adopting, implementing, or enforcing any change to rules or guidance pertaining to the CWA definition of WOTUS.

H.R. 1732, the “Regulatory Integrity Protection Act,” which would require the EPA and the Corps to develop a new WOTUS rule by consulting with state and local officials and taking into actual consideration the public comments on the 2014 proposal and supporting documents.

H.R. 2042, the “Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015,” which would delay the compliance date of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for existing power plants until all judicial and administrative reviews are final and no longer eligible for appeal. The bill would also allow states to opt out of compliance if the governor determines that the rule would have an adverse effect on rate-payers or have a significant adverse effect on the reliability of the state's electricity system.