REPS. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.), Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) and 229 of their House colleagues are asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw a proposed rule expanding jurisdiction over "waters of the U.S."
In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Secretary of the Army John McHugh, the lawmakers expressed "serious concerns" with the proposed rule and asked the agencies to withdraw it to address the "legal, economic and scientific deficiencies of the proposal."
As written, the rule proposed in March aggressively expands federal authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) while bypassing Congress and creating unnecessary ambiguity, the members said.
They called the rule flawed in a number of ways and said the most problematic concern is that the significant expansion of areas defined as "waters of the U.S." effectively removes the word "navigable" from the definition.
The lawmakers added that rather than providing clarity and making it "less complicated and more efficient" to identify waters covered by the rule, the proposal instead creates more confusion and will inevitably cause unnecessary litigation.
"For example, the rule heavily relies on undefined or vague concepts such as 'riparian areas,' 'landscape unit,' 'floodplain' and 'ordinary high water mark,' as determined by the agencies' 'best professional judgment' and 'aggregation,'" they wrote.
The letter also outlines concerns that EPA's economic analysis vastly underreports potential costs to landowners, who "often, at no fault of their own, do not seek a jurisdictional determination but, rather, later learn from your agencies that their property is subject to the CWA."
They pointed out that the scientific report was neither peer-reviewed nor finalized and emphasized, "The science should always come before a rule-making, especially in this instance, where the scientific and legal concepts are inextricably linked."
The National Pork Producers Council and a number of other agricultural groups sent a letter to House lawmakers who did not sign the Collins/Schrader letter, urging them to do so and noting that the proposed EPA/Corps rule "goes well beyond the authority granted the agencies by Congress."
Ditches adjacent to farmland, for example, would be covered under the proposal. The effect of the rule on normal farming practices would be "significant and precedent setting," the groups said.