47 Republican Senators Want To Block The EPA’s Clean Water Rule

CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the resolution against the EPA's Waters of the United States rule.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), along with 46 of her Republican colleagues, introduced a joint resolution Thursday “disapproving” of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule, a recently-added addition to the Clean Water Act that clarifies the EPA’s jurisdiction over some streams and wetlands.

The rule has been criticized as EPA overreach that will hurt business and has been subject to several lawsuits, from states as well as business groups, and legislation seeking to nullify it.

“Hardworking Iowans don’t need more Washington bureaucrats from the EPA telling our job creators how best to use their land,” Ernst said in a statement on the resolution, which seeks to block the rule.

The rule, developed with the Army Corps of Engineers using what a White House spokesman called “the best science available” to determine how waterways are connected, protects two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that the Clean Water Act did not clearly cover before. The EPA estimates that a third of Americans get their drinking water from sources connected to the added waterways.

A bill in the Senate already seeks to nullify the rule. That bill, introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), passed the Senate Environment and Public Works committee in June in an 11-9 vote split cleanly along party lines, with only Republicans supporting it. President Obama has said he would veto any legislation stopping the rule.

At the moment, the rule has already been stopped in 13 states, after a judge in North Dakota issued a temporary injunction at the state’s request. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, and Wyoming were also party to the suit, which seeks to have the rule overturned.

“This ill-conceived rule ignores the thoughtful comments and serious concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and small businesses across the county,” Ernst said. “Furthermore, its expanded definition causes confusion, uncertainty and unnecessary red tape. Simply put, this one size fits all method is the wrong approach that puts our agriculture community at a disadvantage.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has repeatedly said the new rule will not affect the “normal farming operations” that are already exempt from the Clean Water Act. Furthermore, there will be no new requirements for agriculture or forestry, industries which will retain “all the decades long exemptions” they currently enjoy, she told reporters in May, when the rule was finalized.

While farmers and some business groups worry the rule will interfere with business, others — including a group of breweries that say their business depends on clean water — have applauded the rule. A National Wildlife Federation poll found that outdoor enthusiasts in Pennsylvania overwhelmingly support the tenets of WOTUS.

“It would be hard to find a more conservative group than the hunters and anglers we polled,” Lori Weigel, a partner at the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, told The Morning Call. “And yet their support of this policy is broad‐based and widespread, cutting across partisan and ideological divisions.”