Senate Fails to Defund Waters of the U.S. Rule

Last week, the Senate failed to pass an amendment preventing the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers from using federal funds to enforce the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule. Senator John Hoeven’s (R-ND) amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill received 56 votes, falling just short of the 60 votes needed to add the amendment to the larger funding bill.

Issued in May of 2015, this controversial rule grants the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to regulate not just “navigable waters” but wetlands, streams, and possibly even man-made ditches. This redefinition has many members in the business community, especially farmers and small business owners, concerned that federal agencies will violate private property rights and prohibit the ability of businesses to expand and develop their own land. The EPA’s own estimates show that the Waters of the U.S. rule will cost somewhere between $160 and $278 million.

The EPA’s desire to impose excessive regulation on businesses and property owners is not surprising. This new rule is only one of many major regulations proposed under the Obama administration including the Clean Power Plan and New Source Performance Standard. From 2009-2015, the EPA alone has issued 3,243 environmental regulations, many of which directly harm Americans businesses and slow economic growth.

Congress should continue seeking ways to rein in environmental overreach including passing the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would allow Congress to override federal agency rules with an economic effect exceeding $100 million a year.

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