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Senate bill would curtail Clean Water Act’s administrative scope

The "Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act," recently introduced in the Senate, "prevents the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from using their overreaching ‘guidance’ to change legal responsibilities under the Clean Water Act," according to the lawmakers.

“President Obama’s EPA continues to act as if it is above the law. It is using this overreaching guidance to pre-empt state and local governments, farmers and ranchers, small business owners and homeowners from making local land and water use decisions,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a statement. “Our bill will stop this unprecedented Washington power grab and restore Americans’ property rights. It’s time to get EPA lawyers out of Americans’ backyards.”

In May 2011, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers issued draft guidance on “Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act.” This guidance document significantly changes and expands the features that are considered protected under the Clean Water Act, according to a statement from Barrasso’s office.

It makes substantial additions, such as a first-time inclusion of ditches, ground water, potholes, gutters and other water features that may flow, if at all, only after a heavy rainfall.

“The Obama-EPA’s proposed water guidance greatly expands the Clean Water Act’s scope through a slew of new and expanded definitions. This approach is so unpopular, however, that it was originally defeated in the previous Democratic-controlled Congress. Nevertheless, the Obama administration continues to move these policies forward,” Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a statement.

“In addition to an increase in Army Corps jurisdictional determinations of as much as 17 percent, this change in guidance will also result in a change in the responsibilities of states in executing their duties under the Clean Water Act and a change in how individual citizens are governed by the Clean Water Act,” he added. “These kinds of changes, and passing along more unfunded mandates to state and local governments, should never be done via a guidance document. I call on my colleagues from both the Senate and the House to join us in stopping EPA and the Army Corps from making these unprecedented regulatory changes through a guidance document.”

Click here to view a copy of the bill.

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