U.S. Senator Steve Daines today urged the Biden administration to support Montana farmers and ranchers by maintaining the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). In a letter to top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Daines highlighted concerns with the 2015 Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS) and demanded that the Biden administration answer important questions surrounding the vague process of revisiting the NWPR.
“We write to you today greatly dismayed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to remand the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), which finally provided certainty and relief for rural America. We are also discouraged by your recent actions taken to reopen the definition of the “waters of the United States.” These steps demonstrate a misguided and out of touch approach toward addressing the needs of local communities across the country. The NWPR was an immense step forward in rectifying the regulatory overreach that was attempted in 2015, and your agencies’ vague announcement and opaque process fails to ensure our communities will not – once again – be subject to further uncertainty and government overreach,” the letter states.
Daines sent the letter with Senator Joni Ernst (IA), Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) and Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02).
Senator Daines has been a strong supporter of the NWPR and has often spoken out against the far-reaching, burdensome federal regulations imposed by WOTUS.
Two weeks ago, the Biden administration petitioned the court to remand NWPR back to the agency and simultaneously indicated they will be moving forward with revising the rule.
Dear Administrator Regan and Acting Assistant Secretary Pinkham:
We write to you today greatly dismayed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to remand the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), which finally provided certainty and relief for rural America. We are also discouraged by your recent actions taken to reopen the definition of the “waters of the United States.” These steps demonstrate a misguided and out of touch approach toward addressing the needs of local communities across the country. The NWPR was an immense step forward in rectifying the regulatory overreach that was attempted in 2015, and your agencies’ vague announcement and opaque process fails to ensure our communities will not – once again – be subject to further uncertainty and government overreach.
The 2015 Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS) promulgated by then-President Obama and Vice President Biden was a drastic land and water grab that sought to give unprecedented power to unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. at the expense of farmers, ranchers, small business owners, and the American people. Under this rule, the EPA could fine farmers and ranchers thousands of dollars if they simply rotated from one crop to another on their own land without first gaining permission from the federal government. In an unprecedented expansion of the definition of “waters of the United States,” it asserted categorical jurisdiction over typically-dry channels and a variety of intrastate, non-navigable, isolated waters based on a faulty new interpretation of the term “significant nexus.”. This radical escalation of federal agencies’ nearly unlimited authority to regulate any pond, puddle, ditch, stream, or creek threatened the very way of life of our constituents – and any attempt to revert to similarly restrictive policies that undermine existing stewardship efforts will only do the same.
Our farmers, ranchers, landowners, and small businesses have demonstrated a deep commitment to stewarding our waterways and lands, which is why this radical overreach was met with bipartisan opposition and concern that was even echoed by Administrator Regan during his confirmation process. During both a U.S. House of Representatives hearing and Senate confirmation hearing, Administrator Regan stated respectively, “We don’t have any intention of going back to the original Obama WOTUS,” and “We are not going to pull a rule off the shelf, especially after we’ve learned so much over the years.” Unfortunately, your agencies’ actions only point to seeking to do exactly that – dusting off the Obama-Biden WOTUS rule to drastically expand the jurisdiction of the federal government over non-navigable waters, leaving our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in significant legal uncertainty. In addition to earning bipartisan opposition in Congress, the Obama-Biden WOTUS rule was challenged by 31 Democratic and Republican Attorney Generals who declared the rule exceeded the statutory authority of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. They were right and two federal courts granted preliminary injunctions on the implementation of the rule, with one court declaring it violated both laws.
In response to this unconstitutional and reckless failure of federal policy, the NWPR was promulgated in partnership with states and local communities to provide clear, commonsense guidance defining what waters are subject to federal jurisdiction under the CWA. Through this rule, the Trump Administration eliminated the precarious “significant nexus” standard set by the Obama-Biden WOTUS rule which was at the root of the confusion and uncertainty that plagued this poor policy. By clearly and directly identifying “waters of the United States” in six categories and making further clarifications of the definitions of tributaries and adjacent wetlands, the NWPR has set a comprehensible and successful standard for federal water policy while continuing to provide protection for our waterways and environment. Moreover, it is currently in effect in all 50 states, and all unwarranted attempts to force injunctions on the rule have been struck down by the courts – something that could never be said of the Obama-Biden WOTUS rule due to its illegality.
Confusion, regulatory uncertainty, and litigation have surrounded the scope of federal authority of our nation’s navigable waterways for decades. With your recent actions, the Biden Administration is trampling upon this progress and further jeopardizing rural Americans’ confidence that this Administration is working in their best interest. Therefore, we request answers to the attached questions by July 30, 2021.
Rural communities in the West and across the country are dedicated to clean water and do not deserve to be punished by far-reaching, burdensome federal regulations. We look forward to your thorough and prompt responses to these important questions.