Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Environmental Protection Agency alleging that the redefinition of the “Waters of the United States” is executive overreach, flatly contrary to the will of Congress.
The lawsuit alleges that the EPA’s broad redefinition of long-standing regulatory jurisdiction places virtually all land and water under an untenable regulatory burden. The EPA’s regulatory jurisdiction has historically been limited to the “navigable waters” – a term that has always been understood to include only large bodies of water capable of serving as pathways for interstate commerce.
“Respect for private property rights have allowed our nation to thrive, but with the recently finalized rule, farmers, ranchers, developers, industry, and individual property owners will now be subject to the unpredictable, unsound, and often byzantine regulatory regime of the EPA,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “I, and many other local, state and national leaders across the country, made clear to the EPA our concerns and opposition to redefining the ‘Waters of the U.S.’ However, the EPA’s brazen effort to stifle private property rights has left Oklahoma with few options to deter the harm that its rule will do.”
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Monday sent letters to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Ken Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting the agencies to explain both the justification for and the scope of the final “waters of the United States” rule published on June 29, 2015.
In the letters, Inhofe specifically requests justification for expanded federal control of so-called “ navigable waters’ based on birds ingesting and then excreting seeds or insects.
“To support the extreme expansion of federal jurisdiction claimed by the final rule, EPA and the Corps of Engineers refer to ‘scientific studies’ and ‘experience and expertise.’ However, after reviewing the docket for the rule, my staff cannot find evidence of impacts to navigable waters from the ephemeral and isolated waters that EPA and the Corps now claim to control,” said Inhofe.
“Instead, we found documents that make it clear that the final rule is even broader than the agencies admit. It appears that not only are the agencies claiming jurisdiction based on seepage into groundwater, but they are even claiming that seeds or insects ingested by birds in one location and excreted in another is evidence of ‘biological connectivity’ that justifies federal control. EPA has said that the geographic scope of the final rule can reach the ‘vast majority of the nation’s water features’ and by relying on groundwater or bird droppings, EPA and the Corps could control all of them. To understand both the rationale behind the final rule, and its scope, I asked EPA and the Corps to provide the documents they relied on to develop this rule.”