In an unusual joint hearing last week, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee examined the impacts of the EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule on state and local governments. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy insisted that the rule was an attempt to clarify and not expand federal jurisdiction, and that the final rule would reflect the comments of the well over one million comments received from the public. She stated that the EPA was not considering the issuance of supplemental information or delaying the finalization of the rule, which could happen as soon as April.
Congressional Republicans argued that the proposed rule was a “power grab,” intended to give federal regulators unlimited authority over local water bodies. Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam was invited to address the Committee, and asserted that the proposed rule would not only expand jurisdiction and create uncertainty, but would also impede efforts to restore natural resources with farmers less willing to participate in programs, with the high costs of federal permitting, and by diverting funds currently directed toward restoration efforts. Committee members indicated that they intended to introduce legislation to prevent finalization of the rule.