Weekly Columns

We hear a lot about the federal government stepping into situations to ensure our air or water isn’t contaminated by external sources. That’s not a bad thing when a need for federal support, expertise and assets truly exists, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other entities often overstep their authority or fail to work in a collaborative way with states to protect the environment. 

Sadly, Arkansas is currently on the receiving end of just such overreach. That’s a problem I’m not willing to ignore.

As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), I have an opportunity to conduct oversight of federal departments issuing environmental rules and regulations. Serving on this panel allows me to call attention to unfair or unreasonable actions that encroach on states’ jurisdiction to set rules for the road when it comes to keeping our air and water pristine.

Recently, I stood up for The Natural State in the face of the EPA’s so-called “Good Neighbor Rule” during a committee hearing that featured witnesses from other states on the receiving end of this onerous mandate.

The problem stems from the EPA rejecting an air-quality plan Arkansas officials proposed without providing them an opportunity to revise it. It was a bad faith, top-down move that is hard to defend. Not only does the federal plan continue to be a moving target – it’s also estimated to put nearly 50 Arkansas businesses at risk of closure, including power plants, natural gas pipelines, cement producers, steel factories and glass, paper, and chemical manufacturers.

This is just the latest example in a troubling pattern. Whenever there's a disagreement with the EPA about how to accomplish an objective, then it's their way or the highway. That’s in stark contrast to the model it is supposed to follow, which is a cooperative federalism approach to pursue consensus and mutual buy-in.

Regrettably, this isn’t the only area where environmental regulators are running roughshod over states.

The Biden administration, through the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, has also been moving to change the definition of Waters of the United States in a way that will expand federal regulatory authority. In effect, the federal government would be able to seize control of every pond, puddle and ditch in Arkansas and throughout America.

That would be a disaster for farmers and ranchers, landowners and builders, and energy and infrastructure workers who would be forced to jump through endless hoops whenever they seek to start a project and would need an army of lawyers to help comply or to sue the administration for relief.

The good news is the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have now both passed legislation, through the Congressional Review Act, preventing the rule from taking effect. On a bipartisan basis, we’ve sent the measure to the president’s desk and are urging him to approve it. The Supreme Court is also set to decide a case with major implications on the Clean Water Act’s scope and enforcement, so this issue is being contested on multiple fronts.

Arkansas, and every other state, deserves predictability, certainty and deference to create regulations that protect the environment without being dictated rules that might not be in our best interest. I will continue to challenge the Biden administration each time it attempts to do just that.