Legislation was introduced in the House Friday to halt the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers’ attempts to illegally expand federal power under the Clean Water Act and extend the government’s regulatory reach to every ditch, puddle and pond in the country.

Leaders of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Agriculture Committee introduced H.R. 4965, a bill to prohibit the Obama Administration from finalizing or implementing the EPA and Corps Clean Water Act “guidance” in order to significantly broaden the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Act. This guidance would allow the unprecedented regulation of waters, occasionally wet areas and land use decisions not previously subject to federal regulation. Any regulatory expansion under the Clean Water Act must follow proper, transparent rulemaking procedures – not the unlawful, backdoor conversion of publicly unvetted agency guidance into de facto federal regulation.

“The Obama Administration is doing everything in its power to increase costs and regulatory burdens for American businesses, farmers, and individual property owners,” said the bill’s sponsor, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.).  “This federal jurisdiction grab has been opposed by Congress for years, and now the Administration and its agencies are ignoring law and rulemaking procedures in order to tighten their regulatory grip over every water body in the country.  But this Administration needs to realize it is not above the law.”

“The public has a right to be heard on federal actions affecting their lives,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall II (D-WV).  “The voices of our constituents should, and must, have an impact on the decision-making process; yet, here again, the EPA is seeking to impose its will via interim guidance and then asking for the public’s views after the fact.  This method of operation leaves citizens with little faith that the government understands or cares about the effect its actions have on their lives, and it leads to unworkable, inequitable Federal regulations that undermine the People’s faith in their own government.”

“The new authorities granted in this guidance would allow the EPA and the Corps of Engineers the authority to regulate almost any body of water in the U.S.,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). “That means farm ponds, stock tanks, and seasonal runoff ditches could conceivably be included under new regulations. The economic impact on farmers, ranchers, and rural communities would be devastating. This legislation allows us to restore and protect our natural resources by working together and balancing state and federal authority.  President Obama and his EPA must stop this pattern of over-regulation and intrusion into individual and state rights.” 

“I believe in protecting our waterways, and that the Clean Water Act is the law of the land,” said Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). “This policy is too important to be done administratively and should go through a formal process, that’s why I am joining my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and supporting this bill. I was opposed to this Clean Water Act expansion when the Bush Administration tried it and now when the current Administration is trying it. We should not be regulating every puddle, pond and ditch. We need to provide certainty in our permitting process so agriculture and businesses can predict and plan for the future.”

“This bipartisan effort should be a message to not only the EPA, but to all federal agencies that it is unacceptable for unelected bureaucrats in Washington to expand their authority on their own initiative,” said Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio). “This legislation is critical to beat back the overreach of the EPA and I am proud to sponsor it alongside the Chairmen and Ranking Members of both the Agriculture and Transportation Committees.”

In February, EPA and the Corps sent a final guidance document entitled “Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act” to the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory review. Mica, Lucas, and Gibbs joined Senate Republicans in writing to the Office of Management and Budget to oppose changes to the scope and meaning of the Clean Water Act sought by the administration through guidance.

Statutory changes to the Clean Water Act must be submitted to Congress for legislative action, and regulatory changes require a notice and comment rulemaking, according to the Administrative Procedure Act.

The legislation introduced Friay prevents the administration from skirting the law and would require a formal rulemaking for any attempt to change the definition of “waters of the United States” and increase the federal government’s power under the Clean Water Act.