WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today released a statement on President Trump’s executive order that begins to dismantle the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The executive order directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to start a formal review of the rule. The WOTUS rule seeks to expand the definition of the Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act and grants the federal government sweeping authority to regulate virtually all waters or wet areas throughout the country.
“President Trump’s action today on the WOTUS rule signals his clear commitment to the country’s hard working farmers and ranchers. As chairman of the EPW committee, I heard firsthand accounts from those who would be negatively affected by what is essentially an illegal federal land-grab at the hands of unelected bureaucrats. The WOTUS rule, which was made without the consultation of stakeholders and local governments, is anti-farmer and anti-business. Even former Obama EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted the rule is flawed, inconsistent, and ambiguous and 32 states and two courts agreed. I am pleased that President Trump has started the process of scrapping this expansive and burdensome rule. It is the first of many steps the Trump administration will take to undo eight years of an EPA driven by a left-wing agenda rather than congressional mandates and science.”
· In March 2014 the Obama administration, EPA and Army Corps of Engineers announced a proposal to expand the definition of the waters of the United States in the Clean Water Act from navigable waters to virtually any body of water and wetland. In following months, Inhofe sent a number of letters to the President and EPA urging them to reconsider the rule.
· After becoming chairman of the EPW committee at the start of 2015, Inhofe joined U.S. Representative Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in calling for the withdrawal of the WOTUS rule following a bicameral hearing on the rule.
· In March 2015, Inhofe joined Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and 15 other Senators in sponsoring Barrasso’s Senate Budget Resolution amendment limiting the expansion of the WOTUS definition. This amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 59–40.
· The following month Inhofe introduced bipartisan legislation, S. 1140, The Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which would revise the WOTUS rule to no longer include a number of small bodies of water. President Obama threatened to veto this legislation.
· Despite a number of outstanding concerns, the final WOTUS rule went into effect in June 2015. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on the rule in October 2015, blocking the final rule from going into effect after being challenged by 32 states.
· In July 2015, Inhofe sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers requesting confirmation of information presented to the EPW committee in an internal Army Corps of Engineers document that expressed grave concerns with the rule.
· On Nov. 3, 2015, Senate Democrats blocked consideration of Inhofe’s S. 1140 by a vote of 57–41. The following day the Senate passed S.J. 22 Resolution of Disapproval introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) by a vote of 54–44. An additional 15 Senators had publically expressed concerns with WOTUS. Sen. Inhofe criticized the 11 Democrats that voted against the measure, despite signing onto a letter to the EPA asking for clarification of the final WOTUS rule.
· Congress passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) Resolution of Disapproval against the WOTUS rule in January 2016. President Obama later vetoed this legislation and the Congress failed to override his veto.
· That same month, Inhofe sent a letter to the EPA requesting feedback on state implementation of EPA regulatory programs, including WOTUS. Inhofe released the EPA’s responses during the March 2016 EPW hearing entitled Cooperative Federalism: State Perspectives on EPA Regulatory Actions and the Role of States as Co-Regulators.
· Also that month, Inhofe joined Sen. Sasse (R-Neb.) in formally requesting that the Department of Justice investigate whether officials at the EPA knowingly violated federal law in its WOTUS propaganda campaign. In December 2015, the Government Accountability Office determined that the EPA violated the law when it used taxpayer dollars for covert propaganda and unauthorized publicity as well as for indirect or grassroots lobbying on WOTUS.
· In September 2016, Inhofe released a report entitled From Preventing Pollution of Navigable and Interstate Waters to Regulating Farm Fields, Puddles and Dry Land: A Senate Report on the Expansion of Jurisdiction Claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act, which detailed the expansion of the EPA and Army Corps’ jurisdiction under the Obama administration.