Senate GOP to Obama: Tell EPA to back off

Senate Republicans are pushing back against a proposed rule allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to assert its authority over the nation's streams and wetlands.

In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, all eight Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said the agency's proposed rule would hurt economic recovery and represents an overreach of authority.

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"The proposed ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule will exponentially impede economic recovery and is a significant step in the wrong direction," the letter, signed by GOP Sens. David Vitter (La.), John Barrasso (Wyo.) and others, states.

"Mr. President, the decision to move forward would be a clear breach of your promise to cut through red tape."

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers late last month put forward the proposal, which allows the two agencies to clarify which of the country's streams and waterways are under their jurisdiction.

Green groups cheered the rule, which they said would help clear up legal uncertainty over which waterways are protected by the two agencies under the Clean Water Act. The rule does not protect any new wetlands or streams that have not been previously covered.

“This proposal clarifies which waters are — and which are not — protected by the Clean Water Act. It will protect streams and wetlands that are currently in legal limbo," Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement last month.

But in the letter to Obama, the eight Senate Republicans called the rule an attempt to "obtain de facto land use authority over the property of families, neighborhoods and communities throughout the U.S."

"Equally important, we believe EPA and the Corps should immediately cease in their proclamations that the agencies’ proposal is a justified response to various calls for a [Clean Water Act] rulemaking," the letter states. "In fact, EPA and the Corps are using rulemaking requests as an excuse to pursue a rushed, predetermined agenda, as opposed to engaging in a deliberative, fair, and transparent regulatory process."

Republicans have not held back in their attacks against the EPA, threatening to block a number of the agency's rules, specifically those advancing the administration's climate change agenda.

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