Washington, D.C.-Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, released the following statement today following the Fish, Wildlife and Water subcommittee hearing on the SWANCC case:
“Nearly two and a half years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the Corps and EPA had exceeded their authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Prior to this decision, the agencies had assumed that the CWA had granted them jurisdiction over virtually all waters potentially affecting interstate commerce. The Supreme Court rejected that claim in the SWANCC case.
“Whatever one’s position on the Supreme Court’s decision, the fact remains that it significantly changed the jurisdiction of the Corps to regulate isolated waters.
“As a result, several states are reviewing their wetland laws. But until the extent of federal jurisdiction is clarified, many may be reluctant to establish extensive regulatory programs of their own.
“The guidance issued by the agencies last January-just like the Clinton Administration guidance before it-did little to clear up the nebulous regulations. By providing no detailed or definitive criteria for field staff, Corps and EPA Headquarters have simply perpetuated the already intolerable level of confusion in the 404 Program.
“The fact that two and a half years after the Supreme Court decision, the agencies have not proposed any changes to their regulations is disturbing on two counts: first, the American public has been subjected to an arbitrary and inconsistent regulatory policy, and second, it casts doubt on the ability of the Corps and EPA to prioritize their scarce resources in order to maximize protection of the environment.
“From today’s hearing, it appears that the agencies at least recognize that there is a problem. I just hope that they follow through on their pledge of responsible stewardship and ensure that Federal programs effectively and consistently maintain environmental protection.”