Expanding Federal Water Regulation

 In recent years there have been efforts by both Congress and the Administration to amend the current version of the Clean Water Act by removing the term “navigable waters” from the law and replacing it with the term “waters of the United States.” While these efforts may be well intended to ensure a clean water supply for our nation, I am concerned that this would have a devastating impact on rural towns, farmers, and local governments.

The term “navigable waters” has long been the term which limits federal intrusion with regards to the Clean Water Act’s authority. Striking this term out of the law would result in a massive expansion of the federal government’s authority by increasing the number of waters subject to water quality standards. If all intrastate waters are regulated, the language could be broadly interpreted to include everything within a state, including groundwater. As a result, the reach of federal jurisdiction would be so broad that it could significantly restrict landowners’ ability to make decisions about their property and a state and local government’s right to plan for its own development.

In 2011 the EPA issued controversial revised guidance regarding the definition of waters under its jurisdiction, and, like many Idahoans, I am deeply concerned about the ramifications of this effort. In recent years I have worked to include language in appropriations bills to prevent EPA from issuing regulations or guidance to expand their jurisdiction over state waters. As a member of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the budget for the EPA, I am monitoring this issue very closely.