Dems Buck Obama on Water Rule…But Not Tester

The Hill: Dems buck Obama on water rule

Dozens of congressional Democrats are joining Republicans to back legislation blocking the Obama administration’s new rule to redefine its jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways.

Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) signed on this month with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and 26 other Republicans as co-sponsors of the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly are often skeptics of the Obama administration’s environmental agenda.

Farmers and ranchers have been among the most vocal opponents of the water rule, saying it would mandate expensive permits and federal review for common agricultural tasks like digging ditches and spraying fertilizer.

Noticably absent from the list of Dems bucking the Obama admin on the EPA “Waters of the US” rule- Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).

Meanwhile…Senator Tester was visiting Northeast Montana, but apparently didn’t want too many folks to know about it ahead of time- even elected officials.

WSJ editorial: EPA’s Amphibious Attack; An expansive new rule lets Washington regulate any creek or pothole.

The Clean Water Act limits the federal government to regulating the “navigable waters of the United States” like the Colorado River or Lake Michigan. In 1986 the EPA expanded that definition to seize jurisdiction over tributaries and adjacent wetlands. Now it is extending federal control over just about any creek, pond, prairie pothole or muddy farm field that EPA says has a “significant nexus” to a navigable waterway.

So the new rule says the feds can also regulate waters within the 100-year floodplain and 4,000 feet of their claimed bailiwick or land features like prairie potholes and vernal pools that “in combination” have a significant effect. A pothole on farmer Dan’s land may not affect downstream waters, but the EPA could still regulate Dan’s pothole if regulators determine that prairie potholes collectively do. Montana Groups React To Federal Water Pollution Rule

Montana Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President, John Youngberg says farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of clean water because they rely on it every day.

“The concern is this will reach into places where there’s runoff; ephemeral streams, intermittent streams, where they may only be water running for a few days out of the year or a few hours out of the year. [They’d] be controlled by the EPA.”

“You know how it is in Montana; snow melts and little gullies fill with water. That may be the only time they’re full, but if you wanted to put a house there you would actually have to get a permit to dredge and fill in an area that’s dry 90 to 99-percent of the year.”

The Great Falls Tribune: EPA water rule blasted, praised

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat who operates an 1,800-acre farm near Big Sandy, said the rule is an improvement over the original proposal, and was influenced by comments from the public including Montanans.

The final rule provides more clarity that it won’t impact ditches that only flow when it rains, and it sets clear limits on how far the Clean Water Act protections can extend to nearby waters, Tester said.

So, Tester supports the EPA water rule, even as North Dakota Sen Heitkamp (a fellow Dem) opposes the rule. These Maps Illustrate Why The EPA’s New Waters Of The U.S. Rule Is So Scary

“North Dakota’s congressional delegation isn’t happy about a new rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency today,” reports Mike Chaussee for KXNet. “Senator Heidi Heitkamp says she’s frustrated. Senator John Hoeven says he’s concerned. And Representative Kevin Cramer calls the decision disturbing.”

But if you haven’t been following this issue you may be wondering why there’s so much bipartisan consternation over the rule.

The map above is, I think, the most succinct explanation for why the Waters of the U.S. rule is such a big deal. The map was released to Congress when the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (of which Rep. Cramer is a member) investigated the matter. It was a bit of a fight for Congress to get the EPA to release the information.

See the map for Montana here.

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