Congress Should Ditch Obama’s ‘Clean Water Rule’

Congress last year utilized the Congressional Review Act to get rid of many federal agency rules, most of which were prime examples of agency overreach.

Congress now needs to use the “power of the purse” in the upcoming omnibus appropriations bill to continue its efforts to rein in agencies and reassert its lawmaking power.

One time-sensitive and critical issue that should be front and center: the so-called “WOTUS” Rule.

Even before the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Water Rule—better known as the “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, rule—the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been trying to improperly expand their power under the Clean Water Act.

By developing an overbroad definition of “waters of the United States,” the agencies have been seeking to regulate almost every water imaginable and trample on property rights.

The WOTUS Rule takes this federal overreach to a new level. For example, it would regulate certain man-made ditches and even regulate what most people would consider dry land.

Congress should expressly prohibit funding for implementation and enforcement of the WOTUS Rule.

While courts are likely to block enforcement of the rule, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ nationwide stay blocking the rule was recently lifted in response to the Supreme Court decision in National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense.

To clarify, this Supreme Court decision focused on a technical procedural issue and in no way addressed the substance of the WOTUS Rule. As a result of the stay being lifted, Congress needs to take action to ensure that the rule is never enforced.

Congress also needs to expressly require that the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers issue a new rule to define what is meant by “waters of the United States.” Such a clear congressional requirement would help eliminate many of the needless legal obstacles that are expected when the agencies move forward to withdraw the Obama-era WOTUS Rule and develop a new rule.

Further, Congress should provide some guidance as to what waters are covered under the term “waters of the United States.” Ideally, there would be a detailed definition, but within the appropriations context, that might be difficult.

Read more of this The Daily Signal op-ed by Daren Bakst by clicking here.

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