Senator Roberts Introduces Bill to Halt EPA Takeover of Water

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts joined U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), David Vitter (R-LA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MS), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and 23 other Senators in introducing legislation to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking over all private and state water in the United States. The Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014 prevents the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from finalizing their March 2014 proposed rule which would significantly expand federal authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). 

“After already calling on the EPA and Army Corps to withdraw the proposed rule, I want to make sure that the expansion of regulatory jurisdiction over ‘Waters of the United States’ is shelved for good,” said Roberts. “This straightforward legislation prohibits the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretary of the Army from finalizing the rule or trying a similar regulation in the future.”  

The American Farm Bureau Federation officially endorsed the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014:

“The EPA/COE proposal raises serious questions. As a constitutional matter, the agencies are asserting an authority not granted them by Congress; in fact, the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation recently called for bipartisan support to prevent Congress from ceding such authority to the agency. As a practical matter, it will mean increased enforcement against farmers, greater expenses for permitting, potential delays in managing their operations, and the unquestioned exposure of legal liability attendant with lawsuits from activists.  Your legislation seeks to prevent such an outcome and deserves strong, bipartisan support. We applaud your leadership in this effort and will continue to work with you in preventing this regulation from being promulgated,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation in their letter of endorsement.

The legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), Jim Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Boozman (R-AR), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Burr (R-NC).


On March 25, 2014, EPA and the Corps released their proposed rule redefining “waters of the United States” under the CWA.  The term “waters of the United States” is the CWA’s threshold provision which determines whether the law’s permitting and regulatory requirements apply to a particular waterbody.

If finalized, the rule would represent a massive land grab by the federal government, since few water bodies would escape the agencies’ broad definition of “waters of the United States.”  The proposal effectively eliminates the CWA’s “navigable waters” provision, which Congress included to guarantee limits to federal authority.

The proposed rule would provide EPA, the Corps, as well as environmental groups with a powerful tool to delay and prevent development and land use activities on property owned by homeowners, farms, small businesses, and municipalities.  Federal bureaucrats—and not state and local authorities—could assert control over thousands of streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds, and ditches throughout the country.

Senator Roberts is a senior member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. He is an outspoken opponent of burdensome and costly over-regulation.