Last week the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure marked up two bills aimed at curtailing the EPA’s regulatory powers. The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 (HR 5078) is intended to maintain the partnership between federal and state authorities in implementing the Clean Water Act. Specifically, H.R. 5078 would prohibit the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from implementing a rule that broadens the scope of the Clean Water Act and expands the federal government’s regulatory power. Supporters of HR 5078 praised the bill for preventing the EPA’s overreach into regulatory decisions best managed at the state and local levels. Co-sponsor Steve Southerland (R-Florida) commented, for example, that the bill will lighten “the regulatory burden of D.C. bureaucrats” on farmers, manufacturers, and the transportation and construction industries.
The Regulatory Certainty Act (HR 4854) would define the exact period of time the EPA is allowed to restrict or deny a Clean Water Act dredge and fill permit, and would clarify that the EPA does not have the authority to disapprove or revoke such a permit before the Army Corps of Engineers has completed its review of a permit application or after the Corps of Engineers has issued the permit. Proponents of HR 4854 applauded the bill for “ensuring that the EPA does not kill a project without a just cause,” as Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chair Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) phrased it, while critics expressed concern that the bill undermines EPA’s authority to enforce a uniformly high federal standard for safe and high quality water. As Rep Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) said, “As our nation’s history has shown, when individual states get to compete against one another for the lowest water quality protections, rivers catch fire, lakes die and the overall quality of our economic and ecological health suffer.”
These bills illustrate Congress playing defense against perceived overbearing intrusions by EPA. As always, CWC will actively monitor the bills’ progress and keep you apprised. In the meantime, click here for more information.