by Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) — A group of Republican U.S. senators Thursday sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh asking EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed waters of the U.S. rule. The senators questioned the legitimacy of the current public comment period process set to expire Nov. 14.
“Undoubtedly, there is a disconnect between regulatory reality and the administration's utopian view of the proposed waters of the United States rule,” the senators said in the letter. “We believe this reflects the EPA's and the Corps' refusal to listen to the thousands of Americans who have asked that the proposed rule be immediately withdrawn. Indeed, there have been several examples of bias against the proposed rule's critics.”
The letter is signed by Sens. John Barrasso, Wyo.; Ted Cruz, Texas; Mitch McConnell, Ky.; David Vitter, La.; Pat Roberts, Kan.; Mike Enzi, Wyo.; John Cornyn, Texas; Jim Risch, Idaho; Marco Rubio, Fla.; Mike Crapo, Idaho; Roger Wicker, Miss.; Jim Inhofe, Okla.; Jeff Sessions, Ala.; Chuck Grassley, Iowa; Roy Blunt, Mo.; John Boozman, Ark.; Mike Johanns, Neb.; Tim Scott, S.C.; Deb Fischer, Neb.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Jerry Moran, Kan.; Rand Paul, Ky.; Johnny Isakson, Ga.; and Mike Lee, Utah.
The senators allege EPA has misled the public in claiming the rule was based on requests for clarification in the act; that the administration “insinuates that opposition” to the rule is “equivalent to opposition to clean water;” that EPA has “attempted to delegitimize questions and concerns” about the rule; that the agencies have “blatantly misrepresented the impacts” of the proposed rule; and that EPA may have violated the Anti-Lobbying Act by advocating for the proposed rule on social media, including a “Ditch the Myth” campaign.
“A request for a regulatory clarification does not provide a license to run roughshod over the property rights of millions of Americans,” the senators said. “Yet the Obama administration has used prior rulemaking requests as an excuse to unilaterally advance a regulatory agenda that defies” the limits of the Clean Water Act when it was enacted in 1972.
The senators point out that the EPA Office of Water suggested in a Sept. 9 blog that those who “choose clean water” should support the proposed rule, and that opponents of the measure don't want clean water.
The lawmakers blasted EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for comments she made in response to questions raised about the rule when she said the issues raised were “ludicrous” and “silly.” “EPA's disparaging of the proposed rule's critics serves no one,” the senators said. “If EPA believes concerns with the proposed rule are unwarranted, the appropriate course of action would be for the agency to respond formally in the context of the notice and comment procedures accompanying the current rulemaking.”
The senators say EPA and the Corps have “blatantly misrepresented the impacts” of the proposed rule. Both agencies have said the rule would not infringe on personal property rights and would not impede economic development. The U.S. Small Business Administration recently said the rule could impose wide-ranging costs on small businesses and others as they work to comply.
“These assertions strain credulity,” the senators said. “Given the history of regulatory and land use issues associated with the Clean Water Act (including numerous congressional hearings, Supreme Court cases, and real-world examples of costs and hardship resulting from affirmative jurisdictional determinations), it is astonishing that any federal agency would claim that a designation of private property as 'waters of the United States' does not affect the landowner's property rights.”
On the social media front, the senators said, “EPA staff are asking the public to influence the agency's view” of the proposed rule. “In fact, the Twitter account for EPA's Office of Water is now essentially a lobbyist for the proposed rule.” The senators suggest that could violate the Anti-Lobbying Act, which in part prohibits the use of federal funds to influence members of Congress or a government official.
“EPA's social media advocacy is a firm indicator that adverse comments will receive scant attention during the rulemaking period,” the letter said.
Also on Thursday, Sens. John Thune, R-S.D.; Johanns, Grassley, Roberts, Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Boozman, Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; McConnell and John Hoeven, R-N.D., asked EPA and the Corps to withdraw an interpretative rule that currently includes 56 conservation practices exempt from the proposed CWA rule, if they meet Natural Resource Conservation Service specifications.
CLICK HERE to read the letter.
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