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Western Caucus: President Trump Keeps Promise to Redefine WOTUS

January 23, 2020
Press Release

Today, Members of the Senate and Congressional Western Caucus released the following statements after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the improved definition for "waters of the United States" with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule:

Executive Vice-Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03): "The uncertain interpretation of the term ‘navigable waters’ created by WOTUS has left farmers, ranchers and private land owners unprotected from federal land and water grabs. Over the last three years, President Trump’s administration has worked to repeal unnecessary and burdensome regulations with updated versions that better suit the needs of our agricultural communities. I welcome this latest clarification of the term that will restore long-standing states’ water rights and greater certainty for the Coloradans whose livelihoods depend on availability of water."

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "Under the previous administration, the WOTUS Rule was one of the most egregious examples of federal overreach I’ve seen in my lifetime. The rule gave unprecedented power to bureaucrats in D.C. at the expense of farmers, ranchers, small business owners and all Americans. Thankfully, President Trump has kept another promise by fully repealing this rule and replacing it with a significantly better proposal. Today’s announcement will provide regulatory certainty, eliminate federal overreach and balance federal protection of our Nation’s waters while empowering state autonomy over their resources. I want to thank President Donald Trump and Administrator Andrew Wheeler for taking decisive action that will better the lives of millions of Americans across the Country."

Senate Western Caucus Chairman Steve Daines (MT): "This is about common sense policies that protect our environment and support responsible development. We can protect Montana’s water, support agriculture, and protect our property rights without overbearing regulations and mandates from DC bureaucrats. I applaud President Trump and his administration for rewriting the burdensome Obama-era WOTUS rule to ensure that Montanans are allowed to manage the land they know best."

Vice-Chairman for Indian Affairs and Oceans Don Young (AK-At Large): "While the Clean Water Act is important piece of environmental protection legislation, President Obama’s WOTUS rule was just one more example of the egregious federal overreach that defined his heavy-handed administration. Expanding the definition of “navigable waterway” to include tiny streams and ponds only served to ensure that every day Americans – Alaskans among them -- would run afoul of the rule. President Trump has been a great partner in the fight to reign in the previous administration’s outrageous expansion of federal power, and I would like to thank him and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler for their continued commitment to cutting red tape and reducing government bureaucracy."

Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04): "I’m pleased to see the administration carrying out its promise to scale back overbearing regulations and implement rules that will help rural American communities, not hurt them. I’ve heard from farmers and small business owners across Arkansas who repeatedly run into issues obtaining permits, managing their land or navigating convoluted procedures. This WOTUS overhaul will restore commonsense regulation, allowing us to steward our nation’s resources without infringing on private citizens’ rights."

Chief Agriculture and Business Officer Doug LaMalfa (CA-01): "The Obama Administration’s ill-advised attempt to expand the WOTUS definition left a major burden on private landowners and farmers. I commend President Trump for empowering state and local governments to protect water resources by establishing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This is a common-sense change that gives landowners the flexibility to maintain their own land without overreaching federal input."

Chief Regulatory Reform Office Andy Biggs (AZ-05): "I applaud President Trump and his administration for delivering on another promise to the American people. Our nation depends on the hard work of farmers and ranchers who shouldn’t have to deal with unnecessary bureaucratic nonsense that encompassed the Obama-era WOTUS rule definition. This new WOTUS rule will ensure that our communities abide by sound environmental policies and will keep Washington’s heavy hand away of our precious western lands."

Chief Rules Officer Dan Newhouse (WA-04): "This new definition for Waters of the United States will provide much-needed relief and clarity for farmers, ranchers, and landowners across the country. President Trump and his Administration are keeping promises to Americans who have been negatively impacted by overregulation while strengthening protections for our nation’s navigable waters."

Senator Pat Roberts (KS): "The original ‘WOTUS’ rule was nothing but a severe regulatory over reach,” said Roberts. “The growing threat farmers were facing from the previous administration’s regulatory warpath would have only added costs to their businesses and stymied their ability to compete. I’m thankful this administration’s rule is a much more reasonable approach to regulation."

Senator John Barrasso (WY): "President Trump is delivering on his promise to give Americans clean water and clear rules. Regulations must follow the law and be easy for Americans to understand. The Trump administration respects the authority Congress gave EPA under the Clean Water Act. The old WOTUS rule put Washington in control of ponds, puddles, and prairie potholes. The punishing regulation was so confusing that property owners and businesses could not determine when permits were needed. Even worse, it inserted Washington into local decision making. This overreach put unfair restrictions on how farmers, ranchers, and landowners could use their property. I will continue to work closely with the Trump administration as it seeks commonsense ways to keep America’s water clean and safe."

Senator Jim Inhofe (OK): "The EPA’s release of this finalized WOTUS replacement rule is welcome news. Today, we can finally put the Obama-era WOTUS rule behind us and put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of the states. Rural states, like Oklahoma, have been severely harmed by the regulatory overreach of the Obama-era WOTUS rule. The agricultural community in Oklahoma was one of the hardest hit—which is why it was one of their top legislative priorities for so long. I’m proud that the threat of the federal government’s land grab is now officially dead. Today’s action is yet more proof that the Trump Administration keeps promises, and America is winning because of it. I am proud to have worked with President Trump and EPA Administrator Wheeler to repeal the old rule and I look forward to continue our work of cutting red tape and harmful regulations."

Senator Jim Risch (ID): "After years of overreach and uncertainty, Idaho’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners will finally have a rule that doesn’t confuse truly navigable waters with ditches and puddles. I applaud President Trump’s work to roll back this egregious overstep by the Obama administration and empower states to manage and protect their natural resources."

Senator Mike Crapo (ID): "Today’s announcement by the EPA will rebalance the relationship between the federal government and state and local on-the-ground experts for effective and environmentally-sound water quality management policies. President Trump’s Administration has taken decisive action on limiting federal overreach, and has brought regulatory certainty to Idaho farmers, ranchers and businesses who have been impacted by the old WOTUS definition."

Senator John Hoeven (ND): "The Obama-era WOTUS rule was duplicative of state and local efforts, violated private property rights and would’ve imposed significant costs on a wide range of industries, like agriculture, energy production and construction. That’s why we worked to prevent the 2015 rule’s implementation and supported the administration’s efforts to repeal it. We appreciate their continued efforts to provide certainty under the new NWPR rule, which seeks to cover only traditional navigable waters and encourage collaboration with states, tribes and localities, rather than override their authority. We will continue working to ensure the new rule achieves these important goals."

Senator Kevin Cramer (ND): "Today’s announcement is excellent news. President Trump’s Administration values sound water policy and, more importantly, staying within the confines of the law. The 2015 Rule was egregious, and it’s good to see it being replaced with a new rule that is legal and will work for our farmers, businesses, and local governments. I’m grateful for the role North Dakotans played in leading on this issue, and I look forward to ensuring this rule is properly implemented."

Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02): "For years, farmers and ranchers across Oregon have expressed their concerns to me about the heavy-handed Obama-era definition of WOTUS. They stressed that their intermittent stream or irrigation ditch would be subject to the burden of overreaching federal regulation. The EPA’s new definition of WOTUS will both protect our environment and our rural communities. Today’s announcement is welcome news for rural Oregon. I applaud President Trump and his administration for listening to the concerns of America’s farmers and ranchers and delivering on the promise to revise WOTUS."

Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03): "President Trump is delivering on yet another promise of eliminating egregious and overreaching regulations. The Obama-era 'Waters of the U.S.' rule expanded federal power by regulating every stream, creek, and drainage ditch – labeling them 'navigable waterways.' The rule was nothing more than an unconstitutional power grab to deepen the federal government’s foothold in our daily lives. President Trump’s new rule restores sanity, eliminates overreach, and achieves the proper balance to protect water resources, and I applaud him for his work on this issue!"

Congressman Ralph Norman (SC-05): "We are a nation of laws, not of lawyers, and without clearly communicated and fairly enforced rules, we cannot expect our system of free enterprise to succeed. This rules change is nothing short of a liberation of our nation’s farmers oppressed by the punishing and opaque regulatory regime of the EPA. This change shows that we can still respect the Clean Water Act and protect our nation’s natural resources while at the same time allowing our nation’s workers and businesses to do what they do best."

Congressman Chris Stewart (UT-02): "It’s not every day the federal government cedes authority back to the states. I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to rescind the Obama administration’s power grab over water. This is good for everyone, but it is especially good for Western states."

Congressman Pete Olson (TX-22): "The Navigable Waters Protection Rule marks a return to reasonable federal policy that balances environmental preservation with states’ rights and property rights. Years of government overreach under the Obama Administration’s WOTUS regulations did little more than line the pockets of trial lawyers while creating unnecessary uncertainty for property owners. Thanks to President Trump and Secretary Wheeler for hearing the concerns of the farmers and ranchers in TX-22 and around the country loud and clear. The Navigable Waters Protection Rule is good for business, good for the environment and a victory of constitutional principles over federal bureaucracy."

Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06): "I applaud the Trump Administration’s enduring commitment to removing and resolving the effects of harmful and burdensome regulations. The Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule was a quintessential example of the types of regulations the Trump Administration has had to rectify due to their overreaching, burdensome and stifling nature. While we can all agree that we should be good stewards of our land and waterways, that goal is not mutually exclusive with the success of our nation’s farmers, manufacturers and home builders. The Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule fulfills yet another promise made by President Trump to provide regulatory clarity and predictability for job creators in Minnesota."

Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03): "The Obama administration weaponized a well-intentioned law, placing an enormous regulatory burden on northeast Indiana’s farmers. Their greatly expanded WOTUS rule allowed the EPA to regulate too many kinds of waterways. I’ve been pushing for a repeal of the Obama-era rule since I began serving in Congress. The Trump administration’s updated rule will allow Hoosier farmers to focus on providing for their families and growing our nation’s food."

Congressman Roger Marshall (KS-01): "The EPA’s new definition of WOTUS, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, will continue to protect our environment without stifling economic growth and rebalance the relationship between the federal government and states in managing our land and water resources. Today’s announcement is yet another example of President Trump cutting burdensome regulations, delivering on another promise to slash bureaucratic red tape to empower farmers, builders, small businesses, and other land owners."

Congressman Dusty Johnson (SD-At Large): "With this final rule, South Dakota farmers, ranchers, and small businesses can benefit from a clear, predictable definition of Waters of the U.S. I applaud the administration for honoring the property rights that are so fundamental to this great country."

Congressman Mike Simpson (ID-02): "During the last Administration, I heard consistent concerns from farmers, ranchers, small businesses, governors, and many others about the extremely broad definition of ‘waters of the United States’ under the Clean Water Act. During Congressional hearings and meetings in my office, I received no clarity between federal and state jurisdiction over which waters were regulated by who,” said Congressman Mike Simpson. “That is why I am pleased the EPA and the Corps took note of those concerns and rewrote the rule in a way that maintains critical protections under the Clean Water Act, while also appropriately delegating state and local jurisdictions in charge of regulating smaller bodies of water, as the law was intended. I have great confidence in the State of Idaho given their experience and increased responsibility with State primacy."

Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02): "The previous Administration’s WOTUS Rule allowed Washington bureaucrats to regulate the streams and creeks in the backyards of Oklahomans, when in reality these bureaucrats don’t know the first thing about our backyards. I am grateful for Trump Administration for repealing that harmful rule and delivering a new rule that clearly defines what is and what is not a WOTUS. This rule strikes the right balance between the regulatory authority of the federal government and allowing the states to take care of their own natural resources."

Congressman Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large): "Ending another chapter of federal overreach from the Obama era, the Trump administration’s new rule makes clear that a farm pond and a drainage ditch aren’t navigable waters. I appreciate the Trump administration’s continued efforts to roll back a burdensome federal government and protect our Montana way of life."

Congressman James Comer (KY-01): "Our farmers have suffered under the heavy-handed regulations put into place by the Obama Administration. Now, President Trump’s plan of deregulation and ending inconsistent regulatory patchwork is becoming a reality through this new definition of WOTUS. Farmers and businesses across the nation have been in need of a consistent regulatory framework that allows them to function with clarity and predictability. Finally repealing the 2015 Rule will foster regulatory consistency and allow for important projects to move forward. I’m proud to support President Trump’s plan and I look forward to the effects of this new definition on Kentucky’s agriculture and inland waterway industries."

Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05): "I applaud President Trump and Administrator Wheeler for listening to our farmers and ranchers and acting to repeal the flawed Obama-era Waters of the United States rule and appropriately redefining Waters of the United States. The new Navigable Waters Protection Rule will provide clarity and regulatory certainty to farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers in Colorado and throughout the nation by clearly defining the difference between federally regulated waterways and those waters that rightfully remain solely under state authority. This action restores the federal-state partnership that Congress originally intended under the Clean Water Act and returns jurisdiction to State and local authorities, who are better able to manage their own waters."

Congressman Ron Wright (TX-06): "The Administration’s new WOTUS rule is a breath of fresh air for farmers and ranchers not only in my district but across the state of Texas. I applaud President Trump for including stakeholders in this process and for keeping his promise to give state and local municipalities the authority to manage their natural resources and grow our local economies."

Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-07): "Our nation’s farmers, ranchers, homebuilders, state environmental agencies, among others needed the clarity of a responsible, balanced water protection rule. Unfortunately the Obama-era WOTUS rule expanded federal authority beyond its intended scope and muddied the waters of compliance and jurisdiction. The Navigable Waters Protection Rule is a welcome proposal that understands that economic growth and environmental protection work hand in hand. When crafting this new rule, he Trump Administration did what the Obama Administration never seemed to do with WOTUS: listen to and consult the stakeholders who work every day to ensure safe water quality. The Navigable Waters Protection Rule clarifies jurisdictions and respects the federal-state partnership while maintaining important environmental safeguards."

Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-01): "The far-reaching Obama-era WOTUS rule greatly expanded the EPA’s regulatory reach into all waters, from designated rivers to your backyard pond to a ditch along the highway. This capricious overreach caused massive confusion and anxiety among landowners, famers, and businesses. I am glad to see this issue finally resolved so states can once again regulate their own waters and private citizens do not have to live in fear."

Congressman Ralph Abraham (LA-05): "This is great news for our farmers and ranchers whose livelihood would have been severely disrupted by Obama’s overreaching EPA regulations. The government has no business regulating mud puddles and drainage ditches as navigable waterways and I thank President Trump for recognizing this reality and coming to the defense of our agriculture industry."

Congressman Steve Watkins (KS-02): "Yet again, President Trump has delivered on another promise by rewriting the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition that imposed over-burdensome regulations on Kansas farmers and ranchers. The WOTUS rule was a disaster for agriculture producers, and this new rule provides clarity, predictability, and consistency that our farmers deserve. I applaud President Trump for working tirelessly to cut unnecessary regulatory burdens that have stifled American innovation and economic development."

Congressman Morgan Griffith (VA-09): "The Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule was an egregious case of regulatory overreach. If enacted, it would have been devastating to farmers in the Appalachian region of our country. The Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule will protect the environment while offering clarity and consistency for farmers and landowners. They will not have to devote their resources to determining whether intermittent-flow streams and rivulets are covered by federal regulation. This rule is good for clean water and for farmers."

Congressman Louie Gohmert (TX-01): "Congratulations to the EPA and the Corps of Engineers for their fine efforts to reign the federal government back toward the intent of the Constitution. The Commerce Clause of the Constitution does not include the mention of navigable waters, but the federal government was authorized to regulate interstate trade. Over 200 years later, the federal government had decided that navigable waterways had to be federally regulated to be able to properly and fairly regulate trade. In 2015, the Waters of the U.S. under the last administration took that grab to a level that was absolutely unfathomable by this nation’s founders. Under Pres. Trump’s direction, that is now being reigned in and we are extremely pleased that it is. It does appear that the EPA & Corps of Engineers still have more to do to fulfill what President Trump directed, but this is a very nice start. There will still be litigation and hopefully legislation to achieve what additionally needs to be done, since this rule still allows the EPA and Corps of Engineers to control things that should not be under federal control. As the founders understood, you cannot have incentives to become the most free and productive nation on earth without private property. We do have to be good stewards of the land and water just as God intended, but control of much of what the federal entities previously grabbed was reserved for the states and the people. I applaud these initial steps that the EPA & Corps of Engineers have taken and want to encourage them to keep up these good steps in the right direction."

Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03): "Today’s announcement by the Trump Administration is welcomed news for our nation’s landowners. While continuing to protect millions of miles of our nation’s waterways from pollution and deterioration, the new rule will provide clarity to the EPA’s regulatory framework and will dramatically reduce overburdensome regulation currently felt by farmers, ranchers, and small business owners. WOTUS, under the Obama Administration, expanded the role of the federal government under the Clean Water Act from navigable and interstate waters to incorporate ditches, ponds, and streams- regardless of how unnavigable or temporary the water may be. At a time when the federal government should have been cutting burdensome red tape, the Obama Administration instead tied the hands of our nation’s farmers and landowners and subjected them to unprecedented federal overreach and divisive litigation. Farmers, ranchers, and landowners of Oklahoma have long been good stewards of their land and the environment. The Trump Administration’s efforts reeling in the scope of the EPA’s regulatory activity back to the original intention of the Clean Water Act not only provides certainty for those who rely on the land to support their families but it also applies a common sense understanding of what constitutes waters of the United States. I commend President Trump and his Administration for keeping their promise to eliminate the previous administration’s rule and for providing a more realistic and certain framework ensuring we have a healthy environment and robust economy."

Background:

In March 2014, the Obama administration released a regulation that would assert Clean Water Act jurisdiction over nearly all areas with even the slightest of connections to water resources, including man-made conveyances. Specifically, the Obama WOTUS rule attempted to expand agency control over 60% of our country’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands that were previously non-jurisdictional.

Since it's announcement, the Western Caucus has been on the front lines in opposition to the Obama-era WOTUS rule. 

Last Congress, more than 170 bipartisan members cosponsored legislation calling for WOTUS to be repealed and another 120 bipartisan signed a letter urging repeal. That request can be found here.

Previous statements from Members of the Western Caucus on the disastrous Obama-era WOTUS rule can be found HERE, and HERE.

Courtesy of the EPA:

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule ends decades of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. For the first time, EPA and the Army are recognizing the difference between federally protected wetlands and state protected wetlands. It adheres to the statutory limits of the agencies’ authority. It also ensures that America’s water protections – among the best in the world – remain strong, while giving our states and tribes the certainty to manage their waters in ways that best protect their natural resources and local economies

Additional information on the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, including fact sheets, are available at: https://www.epa.gov/nwpr.