Western Caucus Members Speak Out Against Biden’s Return to Obama-era WOTUS Definition

Washington, November 19, 2021 | Elizabeth Daniels (202-280-8720)
Tags: Water
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Western Caucus Members released the following statements in response to the Biden Administration’s proposed rule to redefine “waters of the United States,” an action that will severely impact rural America and the efforts of states, local conservationists, and private landowners who are working to protect clean water:
"Rural America is committed to clean water, and any step the Biden Administration takes to return to egregious federal overreach like the 2015 WOTUS rule is a disservice to the hardworking men and women who work at the state and local levels to protect and preserve this precious natural resource," said Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04). "It is clear the Biden Administration is acting with political motivations to reverse the Trump Administration's Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which provided certainty for rural communities across the United States while protecting the environment, supporting livelihoods, and ensuring continued economic development. The Western Caucus will continue working to ensure the families, businesses, and industries who rely on clean water are heard and not disadvantaged by the Administration's political actions."
“I am extremely disappointed to see the Biden Administration has decided to return to the 2015 definition of WOTUS. Under this definition, the federal government had authority to regulate water on 97 percent of the land in Iowa,” said Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02). “This overregulation by the federal government puts unnecessary roadblocks on how farmers, ranchers, homebuilders, and businesses can use their land. I was proud to introduce legislation earlier this year to uphold the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to support rural America.”
“Biden’s rewrite of WOTUS will be just like everything else this Administration touches – a complete disaster,” said Vice Chair Pete Stauber (MN-08). “When Biden was VP, they put forward this very same rule that led to uncertainty for farmers, miners, loggers, ranchers, manufacturers, small business owners, and so many more. The only people it helped were wealthy activists, bureaucrats, and trial lawyers. Let’s keep in place the working rule written by President Trump, and make the EPA work for Americans and not against them.”
“A one-size-fits-all when it comes to water management doesn’t work,” said Vice Chair Garret Graves (LA-06). “How Arizona handles rainfall or water is different than Louisiana as we also take on water from 31 states and two Canadian provinces. All this rule does is give the federal government jurisdiction over people’s yards and businesses. It’s just a bureaucratic mess.”
“The WOTUS rule is one of the most intrusive and expansive regulations that came from President Obama's political Environmental Protection Agency. It unnecessarily bloated EPA's regulatory scope by more broadly defining what bodies of water could be federally regulated as under the Clean Water Act,” said Vice Chair Andy Biggs (AZ-05). “In the case of WOTUS, President Biden will make every puddle, ditch and creek in the United States subject to overbearing regulation merely with the stroke of a pen. It is clear that President Biden and Administrator Michael Regan want to reinstate the failed policies of the Obama administration that hurt hard-working Americans and give more power to D.C. bureaucrats. I stand firmly against this renewal and the devastating effects it will have on western states, including Arizona."
“The Biden Administration’s first step to reinstate the Obama-era WOTUS rule, which was never implemented in all 50 states, is very concerning to rural communities in my district and across the country,” said Vice Chair Bruce Westerman (AR-04). “The Environmental Protection Agency has failed in this attempt before, and once again, the EPA is going to cause confusion and uncertainty for farmers, ranchers, landowners, and other stakeholders. This obvious government overreach won’t give us cleaner water, but it will have devastating consequences on our economy.”

“It’s extremely disappointing that the Administration is proposing to ignore the voices of those who will be impacted by this decision, and instead attempting to allow Washington bureaucrats to re-impose a rule that will make things more difficult," said Vice Chair Liz Cheney (WY-AL). "Previous attempts to redefine navigable waters were a blatant, unconstitutional power grab aimed at taking federal control over state water laws and private water rights. I will work with my colleagues in Wyoming and across the country to fight against this abuse of power, which would threaten precious resources for hardworking ranchers and farmers.”
“This ‘Washington-Knows-Best’ decision is a direct attack on the private property rights of millions of farmers, ranchers, and homeowners,” said Rep. Yvette Herrell (NM-02). “The Biden Administration is undoing a vital reform that protected American agriculture and rural families, returning the infamous WOTUS rule to a broken mess. It is a slap in the face to the Americans who feed, fuel, and build our country, and I will fight it every step of the way.”
“The Biden Administration is taking us back to an Obama-Era job-killing WOTUS rule now and for future generations. This federalization of all water will result in considerable harm to our economy. Yet, Mr. Biden is committed to a Washington-knows-best mandate to expand federal agency control over nearly every stream, wetland and drop of water that falls,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04). “This reckless rulemaking is devastating to farmers, ranchers, builders, and the other industries in America that depend on a stable WOTUS rule structure.  I have been fighting this federal overreach from the very beginning, and I will continue to do everything I can to prevent this harmful rule from ever being implemented.”
“Although today’s EPA action avoids returning to the disastrous overreach of the 2015 Obama Rule, it does dismantle the clarity, certainty, and common sense understanding that came with the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (OK-03). “As President Biden moves forward with an attempt to revise the definition of Waters of the United States, I implore his Administration to avoid tying the hands of our nation’s farmers and landowners by subjecting them to unprecedented federal overreach. The farmers, ranchers, small business owners, and landowners of Oklahoma deserve a streamlined rule that allows them to continue their stewardship of the environment and economic growth.”
“The Biden Administration’s proposal to redefine waters of the United States is only the latest in a series of serious policy errors and reckless concessions to Green New Deal activists,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-50). “For too long, our rural communities have been a target of restrictive regulations, which ignores the fact they are wise stewards of a precious resource. My colleagues and I are joining together to stop this.”
“‘We can’t regulate our way out of every problem we approach.’ Those are the words of EPA Administrator Regan back in February,” said Rep. Mike Bost (IL-12). “Yet he proudly announced a return to the WOTUS rules that will allow the federal government to regulate every creek, pond, and puddle across the United States. These overburdensome regulations had a devastating effect on Southern Illinois the first time around under the Obama Administration and will undoubtably do so once again.”
“I strongly oppose the EPA’s proposed rule that would resurrect the Obama-era ‘waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) rule,” said Rep. Matt Rosendale (MT-AL). “Returning to the pre-2015 definition of ‘waters of the United States’ is nothing more than an attempt by this Administration to crush hard-working farmers, ranchers, and landowners under the burden of excessive regulation, infringing on their private property rights and making it impossible to support their families and put food on the tables of millions of Americans. I vehemently oppose this government overreach at the behest of the radical environmentalists–and believe it is critical that we maintain President Trump’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”
“The Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule provided the clarity, environmental protection, and guarantees the agriculture community needed to ensure water quality and protect private property rights,” said Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH-07). “By turning our back on that regulatory clarity, we’re actually making it harder for farmers and ranchers to remain financially viable and environmentally conscious. We already have a clear and transparent rule that accomplishes the goal of maintaining water quality while respecting the rights of private property and preserving the role states have in protecting this precious resource. The Biden Administration’s efforts to reverse this is counterproductive and is an insult to the agriculture community.”
“This proposal is deeply concerning for rural communities across Nebraska’s Third District and the nation,” said Rep. Adrian Smith (NE-03). “We do not need to be reinstating Obama-era WOTUS in any form, instead the Administration should return to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule to protect our water and provide clarity for states, communities, farmers, ranchers, and small businesses.”
“The Obama-era Waters of the United States rule would have been a disaster for North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (ND-AL). “Now, the Biden Administration is trying to revive this failed one-size-fits-all policy that will destroy their livelihoods and decimate our rural communities. I will continue to advocate for policies that work with states, not against them, to achieve environmental progress.”
“I’m disappointed that the Biden Administration is again turning their backs on farmers, ranchers and small businesses that have pleaded with them not to revert back from the successful Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” said Rep. Michelle Fischbach (MN-07). “This action represents multiple steps in the wrong direction and yet another instance of hypocrisy from the Biden Administration. Despite repeated claims of wanting regulatory certainty, this action will yet again usher in a new era of uncertainty for those who feed and fuel us.”
“The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule was a bad rule when it was implemented and is still a bad rule now,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-02). “I have fought against this power grab for years because of the regulatory burdens it puts on farmers, ranchers, and small business owners. I know how to take care of my own backyard better than bureaucrats in Washington and that’s exactly what the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule allowed. This is yet another example of the Biden Administration erasing all the progress President Trump made in rolling back harmful regulations.”
“The EPA’s decision to return to the Obama-era WOTUS rule will once again place an unnecessary regulatory burden on American property owners, small businesses, and agricultural producers,” said Rep. Jim Baird (IN-06). “Far too often, rural Americans experienced the disastrous effects of the Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule, and the Navigable Waters Protection Rule provided a commonsense solution to clarify the rule and protect our valuable natural resources. As rural communities continue to recover from the pandemic, this decision will only lead to further uncertainty for millions of hardworking Americans.”
“I’m disappointed by the Biden administration’s decision to go back to the archaic pre-2015 definition of ‘waters of the United States’ or WOTUS,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13). “The Navigable Waters Protection Rule established in 2020 after years of public input is a common-sense solution that gives parity and certainty to our farmers. It should remain in place. This is yet again an example of President Biden turning his back on farmers and rural America.”

"The Biden Administration is picking up right where the Obama Administration left off by writing new administrative rules that will apply to every ditch, puddle, and dry stream bed across America," said Rep. Cliff Bentz (OR-02). "This regulatory 'Return to the Future' will once again give the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to regulate American farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and communities in every state. Not only is this federal power grab unsupported by the law, but it is also totally contradictory to the goal of providing certainty for communities across America."

On April 14, 2021, Rep. Miller-Meeks introduced legislation expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that clean water is a national priority and that the NWPR should be maintained. The legislation was introduced with the support of 114 Members of Congress. Chairman Newhouse and Rep. Miller-Meeks penned this op-ed for the Des Moines RegisterRural America is dedicated to clean water.
When the Biden Administration announced their intention to revise and remand the NWPR, Chairman Newhouse, Rep. Miller-Meeks, Senator Steve Daines (MT), and Senator Joni Ernst (IA) led Western Caucus Members in a bicameral letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime Pinkham to express their serious concerns and demand answers about the Administration’s plans to reopen the definition of “waters of the United States.” Click here to read the letter and learn more.

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