WOTUS in Senate Committees

Cindy Zimmerman

EPA’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule was a topic of discussion in two senate committees on Wednesday.

senate-wotus-barrassoThe Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed a bill similar to one passed by the full House last month, even before the final rule was announced, that would require EPA and the US army corps of engineers to withdraw the rule and start over. Bill sponsor Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) says the EPA’s final rule was worse than the proposed rule.

“Now this is important, because many of my colleagues have been waiting for the rule to be released and gave the administration the benefit of the doubt,” said Barrasso in the committee meeting. “But I am here to tell you, that no matter what concessions EPA has claimed, they added new provisions that greatly expand their authority.” Sen. Barrasso on Federal Water Quality Protection Act

senate-hearing-steenAlso on Wednesday, during a hearing on the federal regulatory system, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from American Farm Bureau Federation General Counsel Ellen Steen that EPA abused the normal rulemaking process in development of the controversial rule.

“The notice-and-comment procedure for rulemaking is designed to ensure that agencies take honest account of the thoughts and concerns of the regulated public,” Steen said. “Legitimate concerns over how the rule would affect agriculture, in particular, were subtly twisted and then dismissed as ‘silly’ and ‘ludicrous’ and ‘myths.’ Public statements from the agency’s highest officials made it clear that the agency was not genuinely open to considering objections to the rule.”

Steen noted that the agency also made use of new social media tools to increase support for the rule among the general public. “Regardless of whether you supported, opposed, or never heard of that rule, you should shudder to think that this is how controversial regulations will be developed in the age of social media,” Steen said. AFBF Counsel Ellen Steen testimony to Senate Judiciary Committee

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