New EPA Regulation Codifies Uncertainty; Congress Should Overturn

Today, the Obama administration announced a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation that will affect thousands of waterways and wetlands. Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, and CEI senior fellow William Yeatman, gave the following comments on the final Waters of the United States rule.

Myron Ebell:

“The Obama Administration’s new rule vastly expands the wetlands jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and does so in ways that go far beyond the language of the act passed by Congress and far beyond any previous definition of the navigable waters of the United States. Moreover, the rule contravenes two Supreme Court decisions in SWANCC (2001) and Rapanos (2006). 

“It will be overturned in federal court, but it could take years of litigation. In order to avoid years of economic damage and violated property rights, Congress should act this year to overturn the rule. It is worth recalling that the Obama Administration would not be able to implement this latest federal assault on private property if the George W. Bush Administration had bothered to implement the Supreme Court’s decisions through rulemaking.”

William Yeatman:

“Rather than clarifying the Clean Water Act, today’s ‘interpretive’ guideline from the EPA, called the ‘Waters of the United States’ rule, entrenches the confused, case-by-case ‘significant nexus’ approach employed by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since the Supreme Court’s muddled ruling in Rapanos. This raises a crucial question: What’s the point of muddying the (interpretive) waters? The answer is that a federal government intent on expanding its jurisdiction welcomes ambiguity, because blurry lines are more easily crossed than definitive boundaries. In this fashion, today’s rule codifies uncertainty, which is the opposite of what a clarifying rule is supposed to do.”

Read more about CEI’s work on the Clean Water Act at