The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s passage out of committee Wednesday of a bill to stop the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. Rule shows Congress is listening, even if the EPA won’t, noted the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC).   

The Federal Water Quality Protection Act, S. 1140, introduced by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), addresses the overreach by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in finalizing their controversial rule to redefine “waters of the United States” (WOTUS)  under the Clean Water Act.

The controversial WOTUS rule gives federal agencies new powers to regulate many normal farming, ranching and business activities, making it the largest federal overreach in memory, the AFBF, NCFC and several other agricultural associations have been complaining since the rule was issued.

Act S. 1140 would force EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to scrap its own, extreme interpretation of the Clean Water Act and return to the drawing board, this time to craft a new rule that would fall within the parameters of Congress’ intent,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The EPA and Army Corps would be required to take into consideration the valid concerns of farmers, ranchers, home builders and others who would be affected by the new rule.

“The committee’s action today is an important first step in protecting farmers, ranchers and their co-ops from an unprecedented expansion of federal jurisdiction that goes well beyond anything envisioned when the Clean Water Act was passed or reauthorized,” said NCFC President and CEO Chuck Conner. “Without question, the WOTUS rule finalized late last month by EPA and the Corps would result in greater federal regulatory controls of day-to-day farming operations, higher costs and inefficiencies, and no real improvements to water quality.”

Stallman added, “Thousands of farmers, ranchers and land owners raised numerous concerns about the rule during the formal public comment period, but looking at the final rule it’s clear no one at EPA was listening,” he further noted. “Farmers and ranchers are committed to protecting the land and resources we use to raise the food, fuel and fiber we all consume. We’re grateful that congressional lawmakers are willing to step up to safeguard both farmers and their land.”

The measure would require a comment period on the revised proposed rule of no fewer than 120 days and a final rule published no later than Dec. 31, 2016.

Both Stallman and Conner on behalf of their organizations urged the full Senate to pass this act as soon as possible.

Stallman said, “The sooner Congress acts, the sooner the agencies can re-craft a rule that more accurately reflects the will of Congress and respects the concerns of all affected parties.”