406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Inhofe Opening Statement for Business Meeting to Consider S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act

As prepared for delivery:

I have made addressing EPA regulatory overreach one of my top priorities as Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

That is why I am particularly glad that today we are marking up the bipartisan S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act after holding a bicameral oversight hearing in February, three field hearings in Alaska and Nebraska, and a legislative hearing.

Two weeks ago, EPA issued a final rule that expands federal authority under the Clean Water Act by changing the definition of “waters of the United States.” Absent legislation to stop it, this new rule will go into effect later this summer.

EPA took this action despite the fact that according, to the Corps of Engineers, 60% of the comments opposed the rule, including 32 states, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties.

Fortunately, this bipartisan legislation will stop the final rule and make EPA and the Corps of Engineers go back and redo it.

And, this time -

  • they cannot avoid consultation with states and local governments,
  • they will have to do a full economic analysis, including an unfunded mandates analysis, and
  • they will have to review the impacts on small businesses and small local government

These are process steps they skipped because they claim that a definition has no direct costs – a claim strongly disputed by states, local governments, and the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. This legislation also prevents EPA from issuing a new rule that simply repeats their regulatory overreach.

Unlike the rule they issued two weeks ago, in a revised rule EPA will not be able to claim the power to control land and water use based on -

  • use of water by birds or other animals,
  • the seepage of water into the ground,
  • water storage, and
  • the overland flow of flood water.

At the same time, the legislation encourages EPA to regulate streams that actually carry pollutants to navigable water and wetlands next to streams and rivers that filter pollutants. It does not put downstream water at risk. It does not put drinking water at risk, and it does not remove protections from our streams.

It sets up the right process and the right principles to make sure that the agencies can protect water quality without taking control over huge swaths of private property.

I urge all members to support reporting this bipartisan legislation to the full Senate.

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