Barrasso: WOTUS Rule is Fundamentally Flawed and Must be Withdrawn

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a committee oversight hearing on “A Review of the Technical, Scientific, and Legal Basis of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.”

The hearing featured testimony from Major General John Peabody (Ret.); Dr. Michael Josselyn, the principal of Wetlands Research Associates; Mr. Misha Tseytlin, solicitor general for the State of Wisconsin; Mr. Ken Kopocis, associate professor at American University Washington College of Law; and Mr. Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

For more information on their testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“On February 28th, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to review the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States or WOTUS Rule and publish a proposed rule that would rescind or revise that rule.

“While this action was both correct and important, the long saga of the WOTUS rule is not yet over.

“This fundamentally flawed rule is still on the books and needs to be withdrawn. 

“The Supreme Court has decided to rule on whether or not circuit courts have the jurisdiction to hear challenges to the rule.

“If the Supreme Court decides that these cases belong in District Courts, then the nationwide stay that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued will go away.

“If that happens, this terrible, unlawful rule, will go into effect and EPA and the Corps will be able to regulate isolated ponds and dry stream beds that have no impact on navigable water and were never intended to be covered under the Clean Water Act.

“As we will hear from our witnesses today, the justification for withdrawing the rule is overwhelming.

“General Peabody is a decorated retired member of the military who was the Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations at the Corps of Engineers until he retired in the fall of 2015. 

“He will tell us that the definitions in the WOTUS Rule are not based on the Corps’ expertise and experience. 

“In fact, the Corps was shut out of the process of writing the final rule and the support documents for the final rule.

“The Corps is the agency that performs the on the ground inspections that identify what water is federally regulated.

“If the rule is not based on their experience, that means it has no technical basis.

“It is, instead, a blatant government power grab.

“Dr. Josselyn is a PhD and a professional wetland scientist who was a member of the Science Advisory Board panel put together by the EPA that reviewed EPA’s ‘Science Report.’

“This report is a scientific literature review on water connectivity. 

“The Obama EPA claimed that the WOTUS rule is based on the conclusions of this report. 

“Dr. Josselyn will tell us that, in fact, this report does not address the issue of where federal regulators should establish jurisdiction. 

“EPA’s Science Report looks at connections to water, but fails to examine whether connections are significant and most of the studies in the report do not address navigable water.

“Instead, this report concludes that all water is connected.

“Our children learn that in 4th Grade when they learn about the water cycle.

“But that has nothing to do with federal jurisdiction.

“And it means that EPA’s Science Report cannot be used to justify the WOTUS Rule. 

“Mr. Tseytlin  is the solicitor general for the State of Wisconsin and works with the 31 states that are challenging the WOTUS Rule.

“Mr. Tseytlin will tell us that the final rule included new definitions that were created without public input, and even without public notice. 

“This means that the WOTUS rule is arbitrary and capricious and violates the Administrative Procedure Act.

“We also will hear from Mr. Kopocis. 

“He was the deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water in the Obama Adminstration.

“Mr. Kopocis will tell us that the Obama Administration met with states and other stakeholders during the rule making process. 

“But that does not change the fact that between the proposed rule and the final rule, the Corps was arbitrarily or deliberately shut out of the process.

“The end result is the Obama Administration wrote a rule that is not supported by agency expertise, by agency experience, by the science, or the law.

“Finally, we will hear from Collin O’Mara, President & Chief Executive Officer, National Wildlife Federation.

“The National Wildlife Federation is very interested in protecting wildlife habitat. 

“The right way to do that is to form partnerships with landowners, not to expand federal control over private property.

“In fact, in 2014 the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a report that notes that the service works with landowners to employ cooperative conservation measures to preserve isolated wetlands like prairie potholes, measures that let farming continue. 

“If the WOTUS rule goes into effect, instead of working cooperatively, the federal government could simply take control of private land and shut down farming activity.

“We have already had attempts to do this in my home state of Wyoming where Mr. Andy Johnson who EPA threatened to fine $37,500 per day for simply building a stock pond on his property.

“After looking at this record, the only course of action that makes sense is to withdraw the rule and start over.

“I hope we see quick action to lift this threat to farmers and other land owners that has been created by the WOTUS rule.” 

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Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Executive Order on the Antiquities Act

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mike.  He’s been a great Vice President, a great help.  And everybody loves Mike Pence.  I just want to thank you for your service.  Been incredible.  (Applause.) 

It’s a real pleasure to be at the Department of Interior, where you help preserve the splendor and the beauty of America’s natural resources.  And I can tell you the group that’s in here right now, they really do the job.  Right, Lisa?  They’re doing a good job.  We’re going to take care of Alaska, too.  Don’t worry about it.  (Laughter.)  And they protect the ability of the people to access and utilize the land which truly belongs to them and belongs to all of us.

Secretary Ryan Zinke is doing an incredible job — and he never overlooks the details.  He’s a detail person.  Soon after he was confirmed, we had a snowstorm, big one, and he was out there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial shoveling the snow all by himself.  And he’s a strong guy.  He did a good job.  (Laughter.)  He did a very, very good job.  But we’re proud of him.

In the first 100 days, we have taken historic action to eliminate wasteful regulations.  They’re being eliminated like nobody has ever seen before.  There has never been anything like it.  Sometimes I look at some of the things I’m signing I say maybe people won’t like it, but I’m doing the right thing.  And no regular politician is going do it.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you folks would do — I will tell you literally some politicians have said, you’re doing the right thing.  I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do some of these things.  But we’re doing them because it’s the right thing to do.  And it’s for the good of the nation.

We’re returning power back to the people.  We’ve eliminated job-destroying regulations on farmers, ranchers, and coal miners, on autoworkers, and so many other American workers and businesses.

Today, I am signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power, and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.

The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as the Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control — have you heard about that? — eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land. 

Today, we are putting the states back in charge.  It’s a big thing.

I am pleased to be joined by so many members of Congress and governors who have been waiting for this moment, including Governor Herbert of Utah.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.  Governor LePage of Maine, who, by the way, has lost a lot of weight.  (Laughter.)  I knew him when he was heavy, and now I know him when he’s thin, and I like him both ways, okay?  (Laughter.)  Done a great job.  Governor Calvo of Guam.  Thank you.  Governor Torres from the Northern Mariana Islands.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.

I also want to recognize Senator Orrin Hatch, who — believe me, he’s tough.  He would call me and call me and say, you got to do this.  Is that right, Orrin?

SENATOR HATCH:  That’s right.  

THE PRESIDENT:  You didn’t stop.  He doesn’t give up.  And he’s shocked that I’m doing it, but I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.  But I really have to point you out, you didn’t stop.  

And, Mike, the same thing.  So many people feel — Mike Lee — so many people feel so strongly about this, and so I appreciate your support and your prodding, and your never-ending prodding, I should say, because we’re now getting something done that many people thought would never ever get done, and I’m very proud to be doing it in honor of you guys, okay?  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

Altogether, the previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres — that’s a lot of land, million acres.  Think of it — 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation.  That’s larger than the entire state of Texas.

In December of last year alone, the federal government asserted this power over 1.35 million acres of land in Utah, known as Bears Ears — I’ve heard a lot about Bears Ears, and I hear it’s beautiful — over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah.  The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice. 

I’ve spoken with many state and local leaders — a number of them here today — who care very much about preserving our land, and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab.  And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we’re going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place.  This should never have happened.   

That’s why today I am signing this order and directing Secretary Zinke to end these abuses and return control to the people — the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States. 

Every day, we are going to continue pushing ahead with our reform agenda to put the American people back in charge of their government and their lives.  

And again, I want to congratulate the Secretary.  I want to congratulate Orrin and Mike and all of the people that worked so hard on bringing it to this point.  And tremendously positive things are going to happen on that incredible land, the likes of which there is nothing more beautiful anywhere in the world.  But now tremendously positive things will happen.

So I want to thank you.  I want to thank everybody for being here.  God bless you all and God bless America.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  So I’ll sign.

(The executive order is signed.)  (Applause.) 

Q    Are you surprised about this 9th Circuit ruling?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m never surprised by the 9th Circuit.  (Laughter.)  As I said, we’ll see them in the Supreme Court.  (Laughter and applause.) 

END 
11:42 A.M. EDT

Committee Leaders Request Information from EPA Regarding Grant Management Process

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt seeking information regarding the process by which EPA closes out its grants.

“For the past decade, investigations and reports by the Committee, Office of Inspector General, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) have uncovered waste and mismanagement in EPA’s grant programs,” write Walden, Murphy, and Shimkus. “This comes in light of a 2016 GAO report that found $994 million in expired grant accounts at the federal entities it reviewed. Because EPA was not among the agencies GAO examined, questions remain about whether EPA properly manages its grant closeouts. This is crucial given that EPA awards almost half of its budget, approximately $4 billion annually, in grants.”

The members continue, “While EPA has made some improvements, recent reports continue to show the need for improved grant practices, including EPA grant money apparently spent by a subgrantee for political advocacy, a state grant recipient accumulating millions of dollars in unspent grant funds while continuing to receive additional money, and concerns that EPA could improve grant monitoring practices.”

The committee requested EPA provide documents to assist in its oversight of whether or not the agency is properly closing out grants in a manner that is timely and efficient. The committee requested:

  1. Reports from EPA’s cash management systems and grant management systems of all expired grant accounts from FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014, and FY 2015.
     
  2. All documents relating to expired grant accounts, including how long the accounts have been expired, whether an extension on the period of performance has been given, total monthly banking fees for each expired grant, and any information regarding the reason the grant was not closed out in a timely manner.
     
  3. All final reports, performance reports, and progress reports submitted for each of the expired grant accounts.
     
  4. A list of all grant applicants and grantees designated as high risk, including information relating to any additional monitoring conducted on high risk grantees.

To read the letter online, click here.

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Chairman Roberts: Relief from WOTUS Rule Is Coming

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following statement after President Donald Trump signed an executive order providing relief from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ‘Waters of the U.S.’ (WOTUS) rule.

“The WOTUS rule has been a thorn in the sides of rural America for too long, and I’m thrilled President Trump has taken swift action to get rid of it.

“The Obama Administration’s EPA claimed they listened to farmers when writing this rule; they did not. I’m pleased to see the Trump Administration is actually listening to rural America with this executive action.”

The WOTUS rule was developed by the Obama Administration’s EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It greatly expanded the EPA’s federal jurisdiction and scope of waterbodies subject to Clean Water Act requirements. 

Prior to President Trump’s executive order, the rule was stayed pending legal challenges. 

Chairman Roberts held a hearing on the WOTUS rule in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and cosponsored legislation to repeal the rule in the 114th Congress. Roberts joined the President at the White House for the signing of the executive order. 

Click here to watch President Trump deliver remarks and sign the executive order.

-30-

Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Executive Order on the Antiquities Act

The Department of the Interior
Washington, D.C. 

11:34 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mike.  He’s been a great Vice President, a great help.  And everybody loves Mike Pence.  I just want to thank you for your service.  Been incredible.  (Applause.) 

It’s a real pleasure to be at the Department of Interior, where you help preserve the splendor and the beauty of America’s natural resources.  And I can tell you the group that’s in here right now, they really do the job.  Right, Lisa?  They’re doing a good job.  We’re going to take care of Alaska, too.  Don’t worry about it.  (Laughter.)  And they protect the ability of the people to access and utilize the land which truly belongs to them and belongs to all of us.

Secretary Ryan Zinke is doing an incredible job — and he never overlooks the details.  He’s a detail person.  Soon after he was confirmed, we had a snowstorm, big one, and he was out there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial shoveling the snow all by himself.  And he’s a strong guy.  He did a good job.  (Laughter.)  He did a very, very good job.  But we’re proud of him.

In the first 100 days, we have taken historic action to eliminate wasteful regulations.  They’re being eliminated like nobody has ever seen before.  There has never been anything like it.  Sometimes I look at some of the things I’m signing I say maybe people won’t like it, but I’m doing the right thing.  And no regular politician is going do it.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you folks would do — I will tell you literally some politicians have said, you’re doing the right thing.  I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do some of these things.  But we’re doing them because it’s the right thing to do.  And it’s for the good of the nation.

We’re returning power back to the people.  We’ve eliminated job-destroying regulations on farmers, ranchers, and coal miners, on autoworkers, and so many other American workers and businesses.

Today, I am signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power, and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.

The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as the Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control — have you heard about that? — eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land. 

Today, we are putting the states back in charge.  It’s a big thing.

I am pleased to be joined by so many members of Congress and governors who have been waiting for this moment, including Governor Herbert of Utah.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.  Governor LePage of Maine, who, by the way, has lost a lot of weight.  (Laughter.)  I knew him when he was heavy, and now I know him when he’s thin, and I like him both ways, okay?  (Laughter.)  Done a great job.  Governor Calvo of Guam.  Thank you.  Governor Torres from the Northern Mariana Islands.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.

I also want to recognize Senator Orrin Hatch, who — believe me, he’s tough.  He would call me and call me and say, you got to do this.  Is that right, Orrin?

SENATOR HATCH:  That’s right.  

THE PRESIDENT:  You didn’t stop.  He doesn’t give up.  And he’s shocked that I’m doing it, but I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.  But I really have to point you out, you didn’t stop.  

And, Mike, the same thing.  So many people feel — Mike Lee — so many people feel so strongly about this, and so I appreciate your support and your prodding, and your never-ending prodding, I should say, because we’re now getting something done that many people thought would never ever get done, and I’m very proud to be doing it in honor of you guys, okay?  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

Altogether, the previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres — that’s a lot of land, million acres.  Think of it — 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation.  That’s larger than the entire state of Texas.

In December of last year alone, the federal government asserted this power over 1.35 million acres of land in Utah, known as Bears Ears — I’ve heard a lot about Bears Ears, and I hear it’s beautiful — over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah.  The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice. 

I’ve spoken with many state and local leaders — a number of them here today — who care very much about preserving our land, and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab.  And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we’re going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place.  This should never have happened.   

That’s why today I am signing this order and directing Secretary Zinke to end these abuses and return control to the people — the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States. 

Every day, we are going to continue pushing ahead with our reform agenda to put the American people back in charge of their government and their lives.  

And again, I want to congratulate the Secretary.  I want to congratulate Orrin and Mike and all of the people that worked so hard on bringing it to this point.  And tremendously positive things are going to happen on that incredible land, the likes of which there is nothing more beautiful anywhere in the world.  But now tremendously positive things will happen.

So I want to thank you.  I want to thank everybody for being here.  God bless you all and God bless America.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  So I’ll sign.

(The executive order is signed.)  (Applause.) 

Q    Are you surprised about this 9th Circuit ruling?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m never surprised by the 9th Circuit.  (Laughter.)  As I said, we’ll see them in the Supreme Court.  (Laughter and applause.) 

END 
11:42 A.M. EDT