Congressman Chris Collins

Representing the 27th District of New York
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Majority of House Backs Effort to Block EPA Overreach on Clean Water Act

May 1, 2014
Press Release
Committee Chairs join Reps. Collins (R-NY) and Schrader (D-OR) on letter

More than 200 members of the House of Representatives, from both parties, are joining together and telling the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to back off its plan to expand federal control under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Both agencies are seeking a rule change to give the federal government more authority by expanding the already overly broad definition of ‘navigable waters’ under the CWA.

Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) authored the letter to the EPA and USACE outlining strong concerns about the negative impact the proposed rule will have on farms all across the country. The letter attracted a total of 231 signatures from both Republicans and Democrats, representing more than half of the House.

The EPA and USACE proposed rule would redefine the scope of federal power under the CWA, giving the CWA jurisdiction over almost all physical areas with a connection to downstream navigable waters. This would put features such as ditches, natural or man-made ponds, flood plains, and prairie potholes, among others, under federal control. The Members say the new rule would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions and is based on incomplete scientific and economic analyses.

“EPA’s overreach is already causing real harm for farmers and stalling business development across our country,” said Congressman Collins. “When I visit with farmers in my district, the heavy burdens under the Clean Water Act come up each and every time. When the bureaucrats at the EPA decide to call a divot in the ground that fills with rain a ‘navigable waterway’ under the CWA, we know our federal government has run amuck. The fact that the EPA and USACE are now looking to formally broaden the definition of ‘navigable waters’ is an insult to hard working farmers all across this country.”

“The EPA’s proposed rule is going to cause more harm than good,” said Congressman Schrader. “By adding yet another layer of unnecessary regulatory burden on our agriculture and business communities, this proposal will further hinder our country’s economic recovery and stifle job creation. The Clean Water Act is working, but this rule will create needless confusion based on bad science. I hope the administration acknowledges our concerns and heeds the advice of myself and my colleagues when we say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Chairman Bill Shuster: “Once again, on a strong, bipartisan basis, Congress is telling this Administration that it does not have the authority to unilaterally change the law and dramatically expand the reach of the federal government into the lives of every American, business, farmer, and property owner in the country.”

Chairman Lamar Smith: “The American people do not want the EPA invading their back yards. Yet that’s precisely what will happen under the EPA’s expansion of the Clean Water Act. The EPA’s proposal is one of the largest expansions of federal regulatory power in our nation’s history. It would give the federal government control over virtually every water source in the country, including those located on private property. Congress must put a stop to the EPA’s overreach and protect the private property of Americans.” 

Chairman Fred Upton: “Once again, the EPA is going far beyond the original intent of the law to circumvent Congress and expand its own authority. The agency’s aggressive expansion of the Clean Water Act threatens the livelihood of Michigan farmers and will detrimentally impact businesses across the nation.”

Chairman Doc Hastings: “This is another massive power grab and overreach by the EPA that must be stopped. Under this plan, there’d be no body of water in America – including mud puddles and canals – that wouldn’t be at risk from job-destroying federal regulation. This dramatic expansion of federal government control will directly impact the livelihoods and viability of farmers and small businesses in rural America.”

Chairman Sam Graves: “I have strong concerns about this regulatory overreach. Federal bureaucrats could interpret this rule to make controlling decisions about a ditch that collects a little rainwater, and that expands authority far beyond Congress’s intent for the Clean Water Act. This rewrite of the rule has troubling implications for ordinary activities on private land, and could cause new costs, delays or permit problems for farmers, ranchers and small businesses. We should not open the door to the possibility of unprecedented bureaucratic intrusion into the lives of Americans.”

“It is refreshing to see that members of Congress agree with the American Farm Bureau that it is time to ditch this rule,” said Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations for AFBF. “This regulatory proposal is an end run around Congress and the Supreme Court, and we appreciate the efforts of Mr. Collins and Mr. Schrader to highlight the many concerns our members are expressing about the rule.”

You can read the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Department of the Army Secretary John M. McHugh and see a list of co-signers here.

The following organizations are lending their support to the effort to block this proposed rule: Waters Advocacy Coalition, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Pork Producers Council, National Sorghum Producers, National Turkey Federation, Dairy Farmers of America, Agri-Mark Cooperative, American Horse Council, Arkansas Pork Producers Association, Arizona Pork Council, California Milk Producers Council, Colorado Pork Producers Council, Continental Dairy Products, Inc., Corn Producers Association of Texas, Dairy Producers of New Mexico, Dairy Producers of Utah, Earth Moving Contractors Association of Texas, Exotic Wildlife Association, Idaho Dairymen's Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas, Indiana Pork Producers Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Kentucky Pork Producers Association, Maine Pork Producers Association, Maryland Pork Producers Association, Michigan Pork Producers Association, Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Missouri Dairy Association, Missouri Pork Producers Association, New York Pork Producers Cooperative, North Carolina Pork Council, Northeast Dairy Farmers Cooperatives, Ohio Pork Producers Association, Oklahoma Pork Council, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. Riverside & Landowners Protection Coalition, Select Milk Producers, Inc., South East Dairy Farmers Association, South Texans Property Rights Association, South Texas Cotton and Grain Association, Southwest Council of Agribusiness, St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, Tennessee Pork Producers Association, Texas Ag Industries Association, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Association of Ag Consultants, Texas Association of Dairymen, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas Citrus Mutual, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Forestry Association, Texas Grain and Feed Association, Texas Grain Sorghum Association, Texas Irrigation Council, Texas Nursery & Landscape Association, Texas Pest Management Association, Texas Pork Producers Association, Texas Poultry Federation, Texas Rice Producers Legislative Group, Texas Seed Trade Association, Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers Association, Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Vegetable Association, Texas Vegetation Management Association, Texas Wheat Producer Association, Texas Wildlife Association, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Utah Pork Producers Association, Virginia Pork Producers Council, Virginia Poultry Federation, Washington State Dairy Federation, Western United Dairymen, Wisconsin Pork Producers Association, Louisiana Pork Producers Association, Mississippi Pork Producers Council, National Chicken Council, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, National Potato Council, Empire State Potato Growers, American Meat Institute.