Waters of the U.S. Rule under attack in House Committee Hearing

This week, the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing discussing the new Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS). Proposed last May, by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers, WOTUS would redefine “navigable waters” as nearly any body of water, including small ponds and even man made ditches on private property. Under the Clean Water Act of 1972, “navigable waters” are subject to pollution regulation standards imposed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers.

Broadly redefining “navigable waters” would empower federal agencies to regulate the land of almost any business, farmer, or property owner on an unprecedented level. It would also have significant impact on local and state control of their land. Officials from Western states testifying before the committee called the newly proposed rule “overreaching” and “job-killing.” Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) called the rule, “a buzz-kill to local empowerment and water development.”

While legislation may be introduced to prevent the WOTUS rule from being finalized, the Supreme Court has already heard a case surrounding the issue. A decision from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes is expected to be delivered sometime this summer which may reverse the rule. Justice Anthony Kennedy called the Clean Water Act “arguably unconstitutionally vague” signaling a positive ruling for opponents of the WOTUS rule.

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