By Timothy Cama - 07/08/14 05:02 PM EDT
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is trying to use a bill aimed at preserving federal lands for hunting and fishing as a vehicle to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to redefine its jurisdiction over the nation’s lakes and rivers.
Barrasso Tuesday introduced an amendment to stop the EPA’s “waters of the United States rule,” which it is drafting with the Army Corps of Engineers to clarify which bodies of water the federal government can regulate under the Clean Water Act, requiring permits for some potentially harmful uses and prohibiting others.
The Senate passed a procedural vote to begin debate on sportsmen’s bill Monday with strong bipartisan support.
Barrasso introduced his amendment the same day that EPA officials launched an outreach effort to the agricultural community on the proposal. EPA chief Gina McCarthy told reporters that the rule will not expand the government’s authority over water.
Barrasso’s amendment matches a bill he introduced in June to block the rule.
“They want to include ditches and other dry areas where water flows only for a short duration after a rainfall,” he said on the Senate floor shortly after introducing the bill. “But the government wants to control even that.”
McCarthy tried to address some claims about the proposal Tuesday that she called “ludicrous.”
“Some people say that EPA is going to be regulating small, unconnected waters, including puddles on lawns, driveways and playgrounds,” she told reporters, picking some examples of what she has heard about the rule. “Now, that’s just silly.”
At least 40 senators — all Republicans — have endorsed legislation to stop the proposed rule, along with a majority of the House.
Earlier Tuesday, House Republicans introduced a funding bill for EPA that would block funding to work on the rule.