Iowa Senator Joni Ernst has collected the signatures of 46 other senators on a resolution that would nullify an Environmental Protection Agency rule that’s unpopular in farm country. The “Waters of the U.S.” rule outlines six types of waterways that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers say are subject to federal Clean Water Act regulation.
“I’ve just been hearing overwhelmingly from so many Iowans that the expanded definitions are causing confusion and uncertainty for farmers and ranchers and manufacturers,” Ernst says.
Other proposals attached to budget bills would block federal funding for implementing the rule. There’s a bill that essentially tells EPA officials to rewrite the rule and address some specific concerns. Now, the Ernst resolution seeks to get rid of the rule altogether.
“It is just one of the options that we have on the table right now,” Ernst says.
All three of those proposals face a presidential veto. The Iowa Farm Bureau has suggested 97 percent of the land mass in Iowa now could face Clean Water Act regulation because of the rule, which went into effect in late August. Ernst calls the rule ill-conceived.
“It’s a lot of over-regulation,” Ernst says.
Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, is among the resolution’s co-sponsors.
Officials in the Environmental Protection Agency say their rule “is fundamental to protecting and restoring the nation’s water resources.” The 1972 Clean Water Act gave the federal government jurisdiction over “navigable” waters, but a series of court cases over the past few decades have caused confusion over what “navigable” means. The agency’s new rule is an attempt to clarify its authority, but critics like Ernst say the EPA has gone so far as to seek jurisdiction over the gullies in corn fields and has infringed on both private property rights and states’ rights.
“The law behind the rule has good intent,” Ernst told Radio Iowa this afternoon. “It’ just that the EPA takes it way too far.”