Inhofe Statement on Senate Vote on S.1140

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today voted in favor of the motion to proceed to S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, a bill that would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the flawed “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule and issue a revised proposal. S. 1140 failed by a vote of 57 to 41. 

“I am disappointed in Senate Democrats who responded to the president’s veto threat and voted to block debate and an open amendment process on the Federal Water Quality Protection Act,” said Inhofe. "Their action demonstrated a fear to debate a potentially illegal EPA regulation in which two courts have responded with stays, one of which is now in effect nationwide. I applaud the courage of Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill to do the right thing in supporting an attempt to simply proceed to consideration of S.1140 that could have ultimately developed an even more bipartisan product to fix EPA’s reckless rule. The Obama administration’s WOTUS rule is not about clean water, as it shifts the focus from water quality protection and navigable waters to habitat protection and controlling water supply. The Federal Water Quality Protect Act would have continued to protect drinking water while also sending EPA back to the drawing board to develop a more reasonable rule with proper input from appropriate stakeholders and the public. America’s private land owners, ranchers, and farmers deserve better, and I will continue to stand with my colleagues in efforts against this illegal expansion of federal control of private land.”

On Oct. 9, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay of the final rule entitled:  Clean Water Rule; Definition of Waters of the United States, 80 Fed. Reg. 37,054, promulgated on Jun. 29, 2015, in consolidated cases brought by eighteen states, including Oklahoma.  The District Court of North Dakota had previously stayed the rule in thirteen states. 


The EPW Committee has held more hearings on the WOTUS rule than any other issue to date. The following are actions taken by Inhofe or the committee regarding WOTUS: 

  • On Sept. 30, the EPW Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water held a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Participation in the Development of the New Regulatory Definition of WOTUS,” with Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army, as a witness.
  • On Aug. 20, Inhofe sent a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Ken Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Water, asking them to address the application of the new WOTUS definition to city sewer systems, using Washington, D.C. as an example. Under the new WOTUS rule, agencies inter to use historical maps and historic aerial photographs to identify the former locations of water features like streams. Many city sewer systems are located in former streams, as is evident from maps of Washington, D.C. 
  • On July 14, Inhofe led Republican members of the committee in a letter to EPA Adm. Gina McCarthy requesting the legal justification for the WOTUS rule. This was a follow-up request to Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) initial request on March 4, 2015.
  • On June 10, the bipartisan Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S.1140) was passed out of the committee. The legislation was first introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) on April 30
  • On May 22, Inhofe joined Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) in sending a letter to EPA Adm. Gina McCarthy expressing concerns and requesting answers regarding a recent New York Times article that reported the EPA may have conducted an unprecedented, and possibly illegal lobbying and marketing effort on behalf of the controversial WOTUS rulemaking in order to inflate the number of positive public comments. 
  • On May 19, the EPW Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife held a legislative hearing on S.1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act.
  • On April 30, Inhofe joined Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) in introducing the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. The bipartisan legislation will ensure the protection of traditional navigable waters of the United States. It also protects farmers, ranchers and private landowners by directing the Environmental Protection Agency (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.
  • On April 6 and 8, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife held two field hearings – one in Anchorage, Alaska and the other in Fairbanks, Alaska – to examine local impacts of EPA’s proposed WOTUS rule on state and local governments and stakeholders.
  • On March 14, the EPW Committee held a field hearing chaired by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) in Lincoln, Nebraska. The hearing focused on the impact of the proposed WOTUS rule, which would expand federal regulation of water in Nebraska.
  • On Feb. 4, the EPW Committee held a bicameral hearing with the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that examined the impacts on state and local governments of a proposed rule to expand federal regulation of waters under the Clean Water Act. Witnesses in attendance included EPA Adm. Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Work Jo-Ellen Darcy as well as local government leaders. Following the hearing Inhofe and House T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster called for the EPA to withdraw the proposed WOTUS rule.