Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss are among 30 Republican senators sponsoring a bill to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing their proposal to greatly expand federal authority under the Clean Water Act.
The new proposal by the Obama administration is supposedly aimed at clarifying how the act protects wetlands near rivers and waterways, yet it would regulate streams that do not flow year-round, but only intermittently or following heavy rains, as well as what is called riparian wetlands: the green, vegetated areas next to streams. The proposal would eliminate the existing limit of regulation to “navigable waters,” the provision included by Congress for precisely the purpose of limiting federal authority.
“The EPA wants to regulate not just ‘navigable’ waters, but every water,” said Isakson in a news release. “This is yet another overstep by the administration that will harm not only landowners, but our entire agriculture industry in Georgia.”
Chambliss said: “Bureaucratic decision-making has no place in Georgia farm country. Landowners have dealt with overreaching federal regulations for too long, and this latest move by the administration, claiming they are ‘helping’ farmers and landowners, is outrageous.”
Adoption of the new rule “will dramatically extend the reach of the federal government when it comes to regulating ponds, ditches and other wet areas,” warned U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, at a June 11 hearing. He said the change would adversely affect the economy, threaten jobs, invite costly litigation and restrict the rights of landowners, states and local governments in making decisions about their lands.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has endorsed the Republican bill to stop the new rule. Aside from the issue of its unconstitutionality, the rule “will mean increased enforcement against farmers, greater expenses for permitting, potential delays in managing their operations and the unquestioned exposure of legal liability attendant with lawsuits from activists,” the federation said.
Also strongly opposed to the proposal is the homebuilding industry. The National Association of Home Builders warns the price of new houses will be driven up by the new rule. Chairman Kevin Kelly said the EPA proposal “added just about everything into its jurisdiction by expanding the definition of a tributary, even ditches and man-made canals or any other feature that a regulator determines to have a bed, bank and high-water mark.”
Georgia’s senators and their GOP colleagues are sponsoring the “Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014,” which would block the expanded federal authority. But the reality is unless industries can influence the Obama administration, Republicans alone cannot stop this new federal power grab.
Democrats, it’s time for you to wake up and persuade your senators to vote for the Water and Property Rights Act!