On Tuesday, Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, held a public hearing to review the definition of “waters of the United States” proposed rule and its impact on rural America.

Enacted in 1972, the Clean Water Act (CWA) established a federal-state government partnership to better regulate and manage the nation’s waters through a range of pollution and control programs. The CWA states that it is the “policy of the Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of State to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, to plan the development and use (including restoration, preservation, and enhancement) of land and water resources, and to consult with the [EPA] Administrator in the exercise of his authority under this Act.”

Members of the House Committee on Agriculture asserted that the Administration has acted on its own, without input from the states and stakeholders, to broaden the scope of the CWA, threatening the livelihood of farmers, ranchers and rural America.

“Despite strong bipartisan opposition from Congress and the public, the Obama Administration has acted to expand its federal authority.  The EPA’s proposed rule could have serious consequences for our nation and prove to be a severe detriment to our economy, with a particularly strong impact in rural counties.  Hasty movement from the EPA will only invite costly litigation, burden states and counties with compliance costs, and create obstacles to building and replacing our national infrastructure,” said Chairman Thompson.

“Rather than strengthening the law, this rule creates more confusion.  These actions highlight a disturbing pattern of an Administration that is out of touch with farmers, ranchers and rural land owners.  The testimony received today further outlines the need for the EPA to either pull the rule and move for further consultation with states, counties, and stakeholders, or re-propose the rule and allow a new round of public comment.  There is too much on the line to continue down the current path,” added Thompson.

Chairman Conaway said at the hearing, “I strongly support legislation to block the Waters of the United States rule and hope we can put legislation to this effect on the president’s desk, whether as a stand-alone bill, as part of a larger measure, or both.  The better route, of course, is for EPA and the Corps to pull this regulation, work with state and local stakeholders to develop a new and proper set of recommendations, and submit these recommendations to Congress for consideration and approval.”

Written testimony provided by the witnesses is linked below. Click here for more information, including Subcommittee Chairman Thompson's opening statement, Chairman Conaway's opening statement, and the archived webcast.

Witness List:

Panel I

The Honorable Jeff M. Witte, Director/Secretary, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, on behalf of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Las Cruces, New Mexico

The Honorable Robert ‘Pete’ Smeltz, Clinton County Commissioner, on behalf of the National Association of Counties, McElhattan, PA

Mr. Joseph S. Fox, State Forester, Arkansas Forestry Commission, on behalf of the National Association of State Foresters, Little Rock, AR

The Honorable Martha Clark Mettler, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Water Quality, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, on behalf of the Association of Clean Water Administrators, Indianapolis, IN

 

Panel II

Ms. Ellen Steen, General Counsel & Secretary, American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Jonathan Gledhill, President, Policy Navigation Group, on behalf of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, Annandale, VA

Mr. Russ Biggica, Director of Government, Legislative and Economic Development, Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association (PREA), Harrisburg, PA

Mr. Sledge Taylor, cotton, corn, soybean, wheat, sorghum, and peanut producer, Como, MS

Mr. Steve Foglesong, livestock producer, Astoria, IL