Congressman Chris Collins Leads Fight Against EPA’s Expansion of Clean Water Act
Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) is attempting to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) from expanding 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’ in the Clean Water Act. Collins detailed his effort at a stop at Stein Farms in LeRoy, NY today where he was joined by members of the Stein family and Dean Norton, President of the New York State Farm Bureau.
“I have outlined my strong concerns in a letter that will be sent to the EPA Administrator and Department of Army Secretary urging them not to move forward with the proposed rule,” said Congressman Collins. “In a show of how flawed this proposal is, so far 166 of my colleagues have agreed to sign on to the letter.”
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 Congressman says 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 causing real harm for local farmers and stalling business development,” said Congressman Collins. “When I visit with local farmers, 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.”
“New York farmers take the care of our natural resources very seriously, but in this case, the EPA is taking overregulation to the extreme,” said Dean Norton, President, New York Farm Bureau. “It defies common sense for the federal government to look to regulate every ditch and rain puddle. The cost to our farms, municipalities and to the taxpayers will be enormous. New York Farm Bureau stands with Congressman Collins to oppose the overreach of the EPA as it looks to stretch the Clean Water Act.”
“EPA proposed rule change of ‘navigable waters’ would basically take full control of our land use for sustainable food production out of our hands,” said Shelley Stein of Stein Farms and a Genesee County Legislator. “Our knowledge, history and technical expertise in providing food for our cattle in concert with daily weather changes is a skill set that identifies us as stewards of the land. We engage in water conservation and protection practices daily.”
“Should the EPA be successful in gaining the rule change to label each temporary puddle from precipitation as ‘navigable waters’, our daily farm operation activity would stop,” continued Stein. “As proponents of clean water, we know that water filtering by soil is an important process. We want the soils to perform as intended. Ponds, ditches and drain ways are in use to hold water until it moves through a natural filtration process. We hope that Congressman Collins and his like-minded colleagues are able to allow normal and daily farming activities to continue to work hand in glove with Mother Nature.”
While EPA overreach is a constant concern to farmers, Congressman Collins says the CWA is also hampering local business development. A company in Genesee County recently informed Collins that it had to abandon plans for a major expansion on property it already owns because the EPA classified the property as a wetland.
“The property in question is no more of a ‘navigable waterway’ than my bathtub,” said Congressman Collins. “This is just one local example of the economic impact of the EPA’s serial overreach. In order to move forward with its expansion, the company has had to buy additional property down the road and will need to factor in extra logistical and travel expenses as part of its day-to-day business.”
“EPA oversight is critical,” continued Collins. “This agency has a history of overly zealous regulation that caused real harm for real people. I plan to continue to hold the EPA accountable for the decisions it makes and the impact they have on our community.”
You can read Congressman Collins’ pending letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Department of the Army Secretary John M. McHugh here. The letter’s lead co-signer is Congressman Kurt Schrader, a Democrat from Oregon.
Dean Norton, Congressman Collins, Dale Stein and Shelley Stein at Stein Farms.