Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing on the “Appropriate Role of States and the Federal Government in Protecting Groundwater.”

The hearing featured testimony from Amanda Waters, general counsel at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies; Martha Clark Mettler, assistant commissioner at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Water Quality; Joe Guild, treasurer at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; Frank Holleman III, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center; and Anthony Brown, chief executive officer and principal hydrologist at aquilogic.

For more information on their testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Today, we are here to discuss a timely and important issue.

“What is the best way to protect groundwater, and what is the appropriate role of the federal government?

“This issue has come to a forefront recently before all three branches of government.

“As we will hear from our witnesses today, a number of federal courts have generated confusing and conflicting opinions on the issue.

“In February, EPA recognized this confusion and asked for members of the public to file comments with the agency by May 21 of this year.

“And finally, last month, Congress weighed in.

“Congress directed EPA to resolve this issue as part of the omnibus spending bill.

“The bill’s report specified releases through groundwater should not be regulated as point sources under the Clean Water Act.

“As chairman of the Senate Committee with jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act, I want our members to hear from the experts and determine what additional actions are needed.

“In 1971, the predecessor to this committee –the Committee on Public Works –rejected attempts to set federal standards for groundwater.

“Now, 37 years later, states, cities, farmers, water utilities, and private citizens have grave concerns that Congress’s intent has been turned on its head by recent court decisions.

“Those decisions place Washington in charge of permitting when groundwater connects a source of pollution with a ‘Water of the United States.’

“This is a disturbing development.

“A broad group of municipalities and water utilities have opposed this idea.

“Including: the city of San Francisco, the city of New York, and the Narragansett Bay Commission in Rhode Island.

“They voiced their opposition in a brief filed in federal court last year.

“Under the misguided theory, everyday activities including farming, ranching, or having a septic tank in your backyard could require a federal discharge permit.

“This is not what Congress intended when it passed the Clean Water Act.

“Eighteen states also recently filed a brief in opposition to this expanded and unreasonable interpretation.

“My home state of Wyoming joined that brief.

“The states explained the alarming consequences of a recent federal court’s ruling in California.

“If the court’s ruling stands, many more individuals and companies will need to apply for federal permits.

“In the brief, the state of Arizona pointed out the number of activities that would require federal permits could jump more than 200,000 percent.

“For example, up to 282,897 septic systems in that state could become federally regulated.

“Making matters worse, the additional permitting would come with significant added costs but no additional environmental benefit.

“States already have comprehensive groundwater protection laws.

“In addition, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act already protect groundwater at the federal level.”

“The additional permitting would sow great confusion and result in tremendous cost.

“I believe it is a harmful expansion of Washington’s authority.”