Senate Action Comes Down Pipe to Block 'Onerous' EPA Water Grab

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans launched a legislative effort to try to block the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing final "onerous" regulations that would expand its jurisdiction in the Clean Water Act to even include ponds and ditches on private property.

In March, the EPA began a “robust" 90-day "outreach effort” to gather input in shaping a final rule, maintaining that the directive isn’t groundbreaking but a clarification effort needed to clearly define streams and wetlands protection after Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.

Critics, though, charged that the administration embarked on an unprecedented breach of private property rights without scientific basis.

The EPA wants to cover “most” seasonal and rain-dependent streams, which account for about 60 percent of stream miles in the country, arguing they have “a considerable impact on the downstream waters.”

Wetlands “near rivers and streams” would be protected under the CWA, and “other types of waters [that] may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant.”

Overall, the EPA stated at the time of its rulemaking announcement, a third of waters in the U.S. don’t meet Clean Water Act standards.

Last week, 30 senators introduced the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, a bill "to preserve existing rights and responsibilities with respect to waters of the United States."

It would block the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing the March proposed rule.

“The EPA’s proposed water rule is another blatant overreach into Americans’ private lives and property by the Obama Administration. Not only would it have a devastating impact on Missouri farm families, it would also inflict serious harm on productive activities like the construction of homes, businesses, roads, and even the development of energy,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) stressed that the EPA "wants to regulate not just ‘navigable’ waters, but every water.”

“This is yet another overstep by the administration that will harm not only landowners but our entire agriculture industry in Georgia," Isakson said.