Legislation Provides Predictability and Certainty for American Farmers 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) and U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the “Define WOTUS Act,” which reasserts Congressional responsibility to define the term Waters of the United States (WOTUS). 

“President Trump and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working hard to fix this atrocious Obama-era rule.  But as the Administration has repeatedly noted,  it’s Congress job to write laws. the Define WOTUS Act will solidify and amplify the Administration’s work on WOTUS,” said U.S. Senator Mike Braun. “I am proud to join with President Trump who is doing a tremendous job deregulating these job-killing regulations that hurt Hoosier farmers and those who reside in the Heartland of America.”  

SENATOR ERNST QUOTE

"America’s cattle producers welcome today’s introduction of the Define WOTUS Act. The Trump Administration is working hard to repeal and replace the illegally broad 2015 WOTUS Rule, but finalization of a practical WOTUS definition is only the beginning. EPA will spend years proving what the Senate made clear today: Congress intends the management of America’s waters to be accomplished through cooperative federalism. NCBA appreciates Senator Braun’s leadership, and additionally appreciates the Define WOTUS Act’s inclusion of NCBA’s science-based proposal of 185 flow days per year for determining federal jurisdiction." - Colin Woodall, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

BACKGROUND:

The Define WOTUS Act codifies a definition of “Waters of the United States.”

  • If passed, the bill would reassert Congressional responsibility to define this important term.
  • The definition in the Define WOTUS Act also makes substantial improvements over various administrative attempts to define the term by clearly outlining what is, and is not, a federally regulated waterway.

How is the Define WOTUS Act different from the EPA Rule?

Like EPA’s rule, the Define WOTUS Act provides much greater certainty to American farmers, workers, businesses and landowners. It gives landowners clear guidelines by which they can go out on their land and clearly determine what is regulated by the EPA and what is not. Because Congress is not restricted various rulemaking statutes, the Define WOTUS Act provides a clearer definition with more obvious safeguards to protect against a runaway bureaucracy.

EPA’s efforts are an outgrowth of Congressional inaction on this issue. Had Congress acted appropriately nearly 40 years ago, then we would not have had these decades of litigation and conflicting rulemakings. We believe that Congress should act here and The Define WOTUS Act is our preferred definition. 

Why is the Define WOTUS Act necessary now?

It is important for Congress to get on the record on this issue.

Further, while the Obama-era rule is stayed in Indiana, I frequently hear from farmers who are still seeing enforcement officers implementing the Obama rule. This is unacceptable, and causing quite a bit of consternation in the farm community. I have been speaking to EPA and Indiana about this, but I also want to introduce legislation to make Congress’s position clear about what is and is not under federal jurisdiction.  

Are you concerned that restricting federal control will lead to environmental pollution concerns?

No. The Clean Water Act only determines what bureaucrats at EPA can regulate. It does not, and therefore my bill does not, affect state authorities. In fact, Congress has long intended for states to have much broader authorities with respect to water regulation. This is why Congress clearly excluded groundwater from federal control in the Clean Water Act.

Anything not regulated by Washington still remains well within state regulation. This is as congress originally intended. Even parts of my bill reflect this. One reason there is such a broad list of exclusions, is that over the years, EPA has tried to regulate local water issues. Issues like snowpack melt are not of major concern in Indiana, but they are out west. In a similar situation, wetlands are not as prominent in the Dakotas, but they are common in Indiana. This is why the Clean Air Act was initially structured in this manner, to give states authority to regulate the unique features of their own lands.

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