Dr. Boozman's Check-up

I wrote the following piece for the Jonesboro Sun (subscription required) about the EPA's overreaching efforts to exert federal control over almost all state and local waters.

Let Arkansans Have a Say in Environmental Protection
by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR)
Jonesboro Sun
Sunday, March 29, 2015 

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bureaucrats in Washington, DC want you to think there are only two options: either give them wide-ranging power to control how we protect our environment, or live with dirty air and dirty water.

Arkansans know better. State and local work to protect the environment makes sense. It empowers citizens to speak up and be heard, and it allows us to weigh the costs and benefits of new rules. The frustration shared by many Arkansans is the direct result of an agency that often abuses its authority, forcing unnecessary costly mandates on them. And to add insult to injury, many times these mandates fail to provide honest environmental protection.

Last March, the EPA proposed the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that could impose federal mandates over ditches, puddles and other waters that have never been controlled by Washington. This EPA power-grab violates the intent of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which provides water quality protection through partnerships between the federal government and the states. CWA does not provide unlimited power to the federal government.

Earlier this week, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge testified on this topic before the Senate Agriculture Committee. As a member of the Committee, I appreciated her testimony. She highlighted the “questionable legal basis for the proposed rule.” While displaying a printed copy of the massive rule, she explained that it “fails miserably at offering any clarity” for farmers and other land owners.

Over one million comments have been submitted to the EPA. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has doubled down on this rule, despite the opposition of more than 160 agricultural organizations and more than 70 non-agriculture organizations, including Arkansas groups like the Arkansas Associated Builders and Contractors and Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association.

For the past year, thousands of Arkansas farmers, ranchers, foresters and landowners have shared their concerns with me about the impact of the proposed WOTUS rule. The costs of permits and extended delays would add up quickly. We all pay these costs when we go to the grocery store or the lumber yard. As a voice for the Natural State, I am fighting against this agency overreach.

My colleagues and I have questioned the head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, at several hearings. We have urged the Obama Administration to withdraw this harmful proposal. Despite what the proposed rule says, during our hearings, the head of the EPA has testified that the agency does not intend to take additional control of water. Since the EPA says it does not want to grab more power, at a minimum Congress should vote to hold the EPA to the commitments made in these hearings. Ultimately, I believe Congress must pass legislation to completely reject this rule and protect the role of states, local communities and citizens.

We must protect water quality, but we can do this without giving all power to Washington. Local citizens, including farmers and landowners have rights we must defend. I will continue to stand for Arkansas as long as I serve as your Senator.