Bill to stop EPA’s water rule passes House

A bill championed by Rep. Nick Rahall to block a controversial proposed rule has passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Resolution 5078 would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from expanding its authority under the Clean Water Act. The rule has been widely criticized by the coal and construction industries, as well as farmers who claim the rule would put an undue burden on their businesses.

Rahall, who helped get the bill through committee and onto the House floor, said the rule is a “power grab.”

“In proposing this rule, the EPA claims to be attempting to provide clarity,” he said in a Tuesday speech on the House floor. “In truth, the only certainty these regulations provide is the sure knowledge that, under them, anyone undertaking nearly any activity involving so much as a ditch in the United States, will have to deal with the bureaucracy known as the EPA.

“If implemented, they would entail more than a power grab; they would result in a land grab, enabling the EPA to dictate to more and more citizens just how they can use their own property.”

Clay Bailey, president of the Kanawha County Farm Bureau, told the Daily Mail in July farmers support the Clean Water Act, but only as long as it applies to rivers, lakes and streams. Any standing water that occurs after rainfall generally seeps into the ground or is evaporated, so there’s no need for regulation, he argued.

“In West Virginia and other states, people are protesting because after we have a rain there are low-lying areas all over the state that contain waters that will eventually dissolve into the ground or evaporate,” Bailey said.

“The EPA rule states they can come in and tell you that you need to fix these water runoffs, ditches or whatever or the wet spots we have even though its only wet when it rains. It could cost farmers, construction workers, oil and gas industries a lot of money to fix these areas that are only wet when it rains. That could hurt the industry because people don’t have the money to fix every low-lying wet spot.”

The EPA proposed the rule earlier this year in response to a Supreme Court decision requiring regulatory clarification. But farmers and other property owners criticized the rule, saying expanding the definition of what bodies of water would be covered by the Clean Water Act could mean they would need to obtain costly and cumbersome permits.

“We don’t want somebody to come in and tell us we have a ditch that only has water in it when it rains that we have to spend money on permits to fix that because that would be very expensive for individuals,” Bailey said. “We’re afraid a lot of people would get out of the business.”

The bill passed by a vote of 262-152.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney. burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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