WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today praised the 53 Senators who voted to pass S.J.Res. 22, the WOTUS Rule Resolution of Disapproval introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and highlighted that after this week’s floor action, 69 Senators are on the record opposing the final rule.
“As of this week, 69 Senators are now on the record stating their grave objections to the final WOTUS rule,” Inhofe said. "This veto-proof majority could be working together in a bipartisan fashion to send EPA back to the drawing board to improve this flawed regulation if it weren’t for 11 of those Members who chose this week to instead protect the president and shut down debate on responsible, bipartisan legislation. I applaud Senate leadership for taking the next step to address the WOTUS rule with a CRA vote to show who in the Senate stands with the concerns of 31 states who have sued to overturn the rule, two federal courts which have stayed the rule from being implemented throughout the entire country, and the millions of American land owners opposing this unnecessary rule. While this CRA is at risk of a presidential veto, the fight to overturn the WOTUS regulation is not over. I remain committed to bringing common-sense legislation back to the Senate floor to stop the rule in its tracks. Our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and private land owners should not have to suffer from a heavy handed EPA while this rule is being overturned in the courts.”
On Tuesday, 57 Senators voted to proceed to the bipartisan Federal Quality Water Protection Act, S.1140, in order to address the flawed “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) prepared to vote in support. Because it was a vote on motion to proceed, S.1140 needed 60 votes in order for the Senate to begin debate and an open amendment process on the legislation.
Also on Tuesday, 11 Senate Democrats who voted against the motion to proceed to S.1140 sent a letter to the EPA stating: "Farmers, ranchers, water utilities, local governments, and contractors deserve this clarity and certainty. Should the EPA not provide this clarity or enforce this rule in a way that erodes traditional exemptions, we reserve the right to support efforts in the future to revise the rule. ”
Inhofe spoke on the Senate floor today holding the 11 Senators’ accountable for their letter to the EPA requesting clarification on the final WOTUS rule as well as raising awareness of the history in how this flawed rule was drafted.
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 Oct. 9, Inhofe released a statement on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issuance of 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, in consolidated cases brought by eighteen states, including Oklahoma. The District Court of North Dakota had previously stayed the rule in thirteen states.
- 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 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.