Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments
HVC – 210 (House Visitors Center of the U.S. Capitol)
Summary of Subject Matter
February 4, 2015
As we all know, last April, the Administration proposed a rule that would expand the reach of the federal government under the Clean Water Act. This proposal is troubling for a variety of reasons, but I’ll sum up my biggest concerns.
The rule undermines the federal-state partnership under the Clean Water Act. This partnership is the basis of the Act’s success over the last four decades in improving our water quality. Many states and local governments, including my state of Pennsylvania, are objecting to this erosion of that partnership and their authority. This rule wrongly assumes that states and local governments, including Pennsylvania, don’t know how, or don’t care about protecting their waters.
And while the agencies had an opportunity to develop a reasonable rule, they instead chose to write the proposed rule vaguely, in order to give federal regulators free rein to claim federal jurisdiction over most any water or wet area.
This rule was developed by the Administration without consulting state and local authorities; without considering their rights, their responsibilities, their liabilities, and their budgets; and without realistically examining the potential economic and legal impacts on agriculture and other stakeholders.
If this rule goes into effect, it will open the door for the federal government to regulate just about any place where water collects, and in some cases regulate land use activities.
This will have serious consequences for the economy. It will threaten jobs and result in costly litigation. It will negatively impact business – farmers, home and road builders, and other job creators. It will trample the rights of state and local governments, and their ability to make economic development decisions and, more importantly, public safety decisions. And it will restrict the rights of private citizens to decide what they can do on their own land.
Make no mistake, this hurts the American middle class.
This rule is an “end-run” around Congress – another example of overreach by this Administration. This was twice rejected under the Democrat majority. This was also twice rejected by the Supreme Court.
The proposed rule tries to force more federal control over the lives of our citizens, farmers, home builders, and other job-creating activities.
Not all waters need to be subject to federal jurisdiction, and states should have primary responsibility of regulating waters within their individual boundaries.
Instead of racing to pass down another federal edict, these agencies should collaborate with the states, local governments, and other affected stakeholders. They should hold public hearings. And they should carefully consider the public comments received.
We need to maintain a thoughtful, balanced regulatory approach that protects our waters and the rights of all, doesn’t inflict unnecessary damage on our economy, and follows the law.
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