WASHINGTON — Alabama’s congressional delegation on Wednesday voted unanimously to nullify the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) so-called Waters of the United States Rule, which imposes federal environmental regulations on small bodies of water, even puddles. Alabama farmers and foresters have been particularly concerned that the rule would result in sudden and drastic increases in compliance costs.
In a rare show of unanimity and bipartisanship, the Alabama House delegation’s six Republicans and one Democrat united to vote for Senate Joint Resolution 22, rejecting the rule, which they said would cause great harm to Alabama agriculture, the state’s largest industry.
The rule extends the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ regulatory reach to an indefinite number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches, temporary streams or “any waters located within the 100-year floodplain of a traditional navigable water.”
“The government overreach from this rule would extend beyond farms to affect businesses, homes, schools, churches – any place built on land where water runs through after a heavy rain,” said ALFA president Jimmy Parnell. “This was never the intent of the Clean Water Act, and this bypassing of Congress should not be allowed.”
As with other parts of President Obama’s agenda, frustration stemming from his inability to get Congress to enact his policies has led him to impose his will via executive action.
Alabama Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6), who has been a leading voice against the Obama administration’s environmental initiatives, said this Water Rule, which remains little-known, is among the most egregious examples of the executive branch overstepping its bounds.
“Reining in executive branch overreach, particularly at the EPA which is one of the worst offenders, remains one of my highest priorities in Congress,” Palmer said. “The EPA has not listened to the public, which overwhelmingly rejects the idea that the EPA should be able to regulate ponds and ditches and other small bodies of water on private land. This is another example of EPA overreach and I am pleased to join my colleagues in voting to stop it.”
“Of course we all want to ensure that rules are followed to keep our waters clean,” Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL2) added during a speech on the House floor. “But, making puddles and ditches subject to inspection just to expand the reach of federal regulators has nothing to do with clean water.”
The resolution now goes to President Obama’s desk, where it is likely to receive a veto.
The court battle over the rule, however, rages on.
At the request of Alabama and 17 other states, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a nationwide stay on the rule in October of last year, temporarily blocking it from going into effect.
“A stay allows for a more deliberate determination whether this exercise of executive power … is proper under the dictates of federal law,” the court said.
The final word has not yet been handed down. In the mean time, Congress has let it be known that it does not approve.