Senate Bill Would Halt EPA's Proposed Water Rule and Protect Landowners

May 5, 2015

Bipartisan legislation introduced April 30 in the Senate would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from implementing a proposed rule that could result in millions of acres of private property to be regulated as wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA and the Corps' proposal to significantly expand the definition of "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act is broad and could be interpreted to include almost any water body, such as ditches, mudflats or isolated ponds.

Similar to legislation (H.R. 1732) pending in the House, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140) would ensure the protection of traditional navigable waters of the United States. It also would protect landowners by directing EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that does not include things such as isolated ponds, ditches, agriculture water, storm water, groundwater, floodwater, municipal water supply systems, wastewater management systems, and streams without enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.

Unlike its House counterpart, the Senate bill would also establish new parameters for identifying a water of the U.S.

In 2009, Congress rejected a bill that would have removed the term “navigable water” from the Clean Water Act. This would have given the federal government jurisdiction over all surface water in the country. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the proposal by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gives the government even more authority.

“After working together for months, we’ve introduced a strong bipartisan bill that will protect America’s waterways - and America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners. Our legislation gives the EPA the direction it needs to write a reasonable rule that will truly protect our ‘navigable’ waterways,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). “By striking the right balance, we’ll keep our waterways safe and pristine and allow them to be used as natural resources. Our next step is to work together to ensure this bill moves quickly through Congress. It’s time for Washington to finally focus on preserving our rivers and lakes and delivering certainty to American citizens.”

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or [email protected].