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Agricultural News

Senator Jim Inhofe Wants EPA to be Held Accountable for Overreach Regarding WOTUS and Related Rules

Tue, 24 May 2016 15:45:49 CDT

Senator Jim Inhofe Wants EPA to be Held Accountable for Overreach Regarding WOTUS and Related Rules U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, submitted the following opening statement for the record today at the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife oversight hearing entitled, Erosion of Exemptions and Expansion of Federal Control – Implementation of the Definition of Waters of the United States.  Witnesses included Don Parrish, senior director – regulatory relations, American Farm Bureau Federation; Damien Schiff, principal attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation; Valerie Wilkinson, chief financial officer, EGS Companies; Willam Buzbee, professor of law, Georgetown University Center; and Scott Kovarovics, executive director, Izaak Walton League of America.
As submitted for the record:
I want to thank Senator Sullivan for holding this very important hearing.  This Committee has conducted extensive oversight of both the development and the implications of the new Waters of the United States -- or WOTUS -- rule.  On behalf of Oklahomans and farmers and property owners across the United States, I was very relieved when the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on October 9, 2015 that prevented this rule from going into effect.
However, I have heard concerns that the Corps and EPA are continuing to expand federal control over land and water, without any change in the statute or regulations.
This hearing validates those concerns with concrete examples of how the Corps and EPA are already implementing the expanded federal control that they are trying to codify in the WOTUS rule.  The examples presented by these witnesses are not hypothetical.  They are based on the experiences of farmers, developers, and wetlands experts. 
The WOTUS rule allows use of remote sensing and aerial photographs to assert federal control over dry land.  The testimony presented today demonstrates that the Corps is already regulating land based on information from these tools, even when there is no on-the-ground evidence of a wetland or water.
The WOTUS rule allows use of water that is below the surface of the land to assert federal control.  The testimony presented today demonstrates that the Corps is already claiming that ground water and even water in soil creates federal jurisdiction. 
The WOTUS rule erodes ordinary farming exemptions with its broad definition of tributary.  The testimony presented today demonstrates that federal officials are claiming authority over farming activities even on land that has no streams and no wetlands.  As far as EPA and the Corps are concerned all plowing is regulated and the farming exemptions no longer exist.  
This testimony is tremendously important because EPA has tried to convince members of Congress that its new rule does not expand federal jurisdiction and exemptions for farmers will remain. 
In fact, as our witnesses today explain, EPA’s and the Corps’ claim of federal control over land and water has expanded significantly over the last several years and the WOTUS rule would codify that expansion. 
I don’t know which is more shocking: 
Ms. Wilkinson’s testimony about how the buildable acres of her company’s property have shrunk from 144.6 acres down to 6 – with no change in the law.

Mr. Parrish’s testimony that the Corps is regulating farmland based on light sensing radar and aerial photographs, and then refusing to share these documents with the landowner, claiming that they are classified, or

Mr. Schiff’s testimony about how Corps districts are issuing Regional Supplements to change the definition of a wetland, without going through notice and comment rulemaking. 

I will do everything within my power to expose these abuses so my colleagues – including the seven senators who wrote a letter to EPA instead of voting for S. 1140 -- are no longer fooled by EPA’s assurances. Working together, we can stop this federal overreach.

Source- Washington Office of Senator Jim Inhofe



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