Vitter Summary Statement for Water Subcommittee Hearing on Stormwater Runoff
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife “Solving the Problem of Polluted Transportation Infrastructure Stormwater Runoff”
May 13, 2014
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today's hearing. Thank you as well to our distinguished witnesses for providing testimony this afternoon. I would also like to take a moment to express the Committee's support and prayers for Senator Boozman as he recovers from surgery back home in Arkansas.
It is no secret that the current Administration sees Congress as an obstacle to its hostile regulatory agenda, and that President Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency are willing to ignore multiple agency guidelines and federally mandated transparency laws in order to appease the environmental left. It was only last week that White House counselor John Podesta indicated that there is a "zero percent" chance that President Obama will refrain from imposing misguided climate regulations, as soon as this year--even if that means further undermining our energy security and economic recovery, and even if that means higher energy prices and more unemployment for the American people.
Unfortunately, the Administration's policy of "legislation by regulation" is pervasive, and it has reached the subject of today's hearing: stormwater runoff. There is no question that, under the Clean Water Act, Congress provided EPA with the authority to address and mitigate the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters. However, the EPA has been testing the limits of this authority recently in an ongoing effort to regulate water bodies that were clearly left to the states and private landowners to manage. Some of the more egregious examples have been highlighted by EPW Republicans.
EPA's unlawful effort to regulate the rain creates absurd consequences for local and state officials throughout the country. In one particular case, the Virginia Department of Transportation determined that EPA water flow regulations would cost hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded federal mandates, provide little environmental benefit, and force local authorities to condemn a vast swath of private property in order to construct required stormwater infrastructure. Accordingly, the Department challenged EPA in court, which tossed out EPA's regulations based on the common sense notion that the flow of water is not a pollutant under the Clean Water Act.
Of course, policymakers should examine the problems and potential solutions to water pollution associated with transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, the EPA's and this Administration's refusal to recognize limits to federal authority under current law precludes a sober discussion of these issues.
EPA's proposed "waters of the United States" rule confirms that the agency has no intention of abiding by the limits Congress established in the Clean Water Act. As the written testimony for today's hearing indicates, the Administration's quest for unfettered regulatory authority will in fact impede environmental stewardship and safety efforts by transportation and other officials throughout the country. This calls into question either side of the aisle supporting EPA's proposed rule.
I'd like to make very clear that it is the intention of EPW Republicans to prevent EPA from redefining federal jurisdiction, and to keep EPA bureaucrats out of the back yards of American families and off the property of our farmers, ranchers and small businesses. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished panel of experts this afternoon on these issues, and I thank Senator Cardin for holding this important hearing.