Barrasso Offers Amendment to Budget Resolution to Protect Water and Property Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 26, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), spoke on the Senate floor about his amendment to Senate Budget Resolution, S. Con. Res. 11, that limits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from adopting an expanded and broad regulatory definition of “Waters of the United States.”

Barrasso’s amendment #347 establishes a spending-neutral reserve fund to ensure federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act is focused on water quality, which may include limiting federal jurisdiction based on certain criteria.

Excerpts from Senator Barrasso’s remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding his amendment:

“I ask unanimous consent that pending amendments be set aside and I be allowed to call up my amendment number 347—and that the amendment be made pending.

“This amendment that was just called up and made pending, deals with the regulation that the Obama administration has proposed, that would expand the Clean Water Act.

“The rule is an attempt to change the definition of what the law calls ‘Waters of the United States.’

“The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers first proposed the rule last year, and they expect to have it finalized in the next few months.

“Well, under this rule, the definition of waters of the United States would include ditches, would include dry areas where water flows only for a short period of time after it rains.

“Federal regulations have never before listed ditches and other manmade features as waters of the United States.

“This would be an alarming step – and it would have a huge impact on farmers, ranchers, families, and small businesses all across America.

“People whose livelihood requires that they put a shovel in the ground, would suddenly find it much more difficult to make a living.

“The rule would amount to a tax—a tax on family farmers and ranchers to use their own land after it rains.

“These are people who just want to grow crops, raise cattle, take care of their families – maybe even just enjoy their own backyard.

“I hear this every weekend at home in Wyoming. And I heard about it today from students from Lusk, Wyoming in Niobrara County.

“Now Washington bureaucrats would have a say in how all of these people use their property.

“I oppose this rule, and I’d like to see it scrapped entirely.

“That’s why last year I introduced the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014 – to block the rule, to roll back this dangerous Washington overreach.

“My bill had 38 co-sponsors in the Senate – members who heard from their constituents back home about how worried they were about this harmful new rule.

“We heard from business owners who told us that the uncertainty the rule creates only delays economic investment and delays job creation.

“Well, the Environmental Protection Agency says that our concerns are overblown.

“The administration says that there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what this regulation covers.

“Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, she gave a speech last week.

“She said, ‘We’re not interested in the vast majority of ditches – roadside ditches, irrigation ditches – those were never covered.’

“She also went to say that the agency could have been as she said more ‘crystal clear out of the gate about what they were and were not proposing.’

“Well, my amendment would help make sure that this rule is crystal clear.

“It simply lists things that the Environmental Protection Agency administrator and others in the Obama administration have already said would not be regulated under this proposed rule.

“That’s it.

“My amendment would put limits on how the Environmental Protection Agency or the Army Corps of Engineers determine the extent of Washington control.

“The limits would include not allowing the agencies to make a determination based on the movement of birds, mammals, or insects.

“The amendment would prevent determinations based on the movement of water through the ground – or the movement of rain water, or snow melt, over the land.

“Finally, my amendment would specifically say that federal jurisdiction under the Water Pollution Control Act does not extend to things like puddles, isolated ponds, roadside ditches, and wastewater systems.

“The Obama administration has said that it doesn’t intend for its rules to cover any of these features.

“Well this amendment spells it out.

“There will be no more room for uncertainty, and no more room for misunderstandings. It will then be crystal clear.

“Of course, some people may not want the rule to be crystal clear.

“They may want to have some uncertainty in the rule.

“They may want to have unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats in Washington to be able to change their mind – and then go back on their word, as we’ve seen them do in the past, about what the regulation covers and what it doesn’t.

“If there is a Senator here who favors that kind of uncertainty, then they can vote against my amendment.

“As I said, I have been opposed to this rule from the very beginning.

“This amendment doesn’t block the rule – and it does nothing to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency or the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating the true waters of the United States.

“It simply takes the administration at their word.

“If they say the rule is not meant to cover something, this just spells it out.

“I urge Senators to vote in favor of this amendment.”

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