WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) joined their colleagues to introduce legislation to protect Arkansas’s farmers, small businesses and property owners by codifying the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR).
With the Biden Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) promising to replace the NWPR with a new rule that goes even further than the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, this legislation is needed now more than ever. If the NWPR is replaced, the EPA could go as far as to regulate ditches on private lands and converted croplands, which could ultimately inflict severe harm upon the agriculture, construction, home building, forestry, mining and energy sectors of our economy.
“As we repeatedly reminded the Obama administration, giving the federal government the authority to control virtually every ditch, pond and puddle on private land in Arkansas and nationwide is unlawful and will have terrible consequences. Now the Biden administration is determined to follow the same playbook,” Boozman said. “The current Navigable Waters Protection Rule provides a clear, commonsense framework that allows state and local governments to protect waters within their jurisdiction rather than empowering federal bureaucrats to issue arbitrary decisions that breed uncertainty and upend livelihoods. Our bill will safeguard Arkansans against this power grab by maintaining the existing reasonable rule.”
“The Navigable Water Protection rule preserves our waterways while respecting the livelihoods of farmers and the rights of private landowners. They can’t afford a return to the heavy-handed WOTUS rule of the Obama-era—and we won’t allow it. Our bill will protect clean water and America’s agriculture producers by letting the Navigable Water Protection Rule stand,” Cotton said.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Barrasso (R-WY), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Jim Risch (R-ID), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tim Scott (R-SC), James Lankford (R-OK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Sasse (R-NE), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) joined Boozman and Cotton in cosponsoring the measure.
Click here to read the bill text.
In 2015, the Obama administration finalized a rule that expanded the definition of the Waters of the United States, creating confusion and burdensome red tape for farmers and ranchers, developers and property owners.
The Trump administration released a proposed rule to replace the Obama administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule that provided much-needed predictability and certainty for farmers by establishing a clear and reasonable definition of what qualifies as a “Water of the United States.” The NWPR was finalized last year. Specifically, it established a definition that unambiguously identifies four simple categories of jurisdictional waters, provides clear exclusions for many water features —water features that traditionally have not been regulated at the federal level — and defines terms in the regulatory text that have never been defined before. The NWPR also protects the environment while respecting the cooperative federalism framework of the Clean Water Act by clearly delineating where federal regulations apply and giving states and local authorities more flexibility to determine how to best manage waters within their borders.
On day one of his administration, President Biden signed an executive order rolling back the Trump administration’s action to rescind Obama’s WOTUS rule and finalize the NWPR. In January, Boozman, Cotton and Ranking Member Capito, along with 23 of their Senate colleagues, introduced a resolution that expresses the need for the U.S. Senate to uphold the NWPR. In June, Boozman and the other GOP members of the EPW Committee wrote a letter to the EPA questioning the basis for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to repeal and replace the 2020 Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule.