GOP to White House: Stop 'federal takeover'

Republican lawmakers want the White House to kill a potential Environmental Protection Agency regulation that could cement the agency's authority to oversee streams, wetlands and other small bodies of water.

The draft rule has been lambasted by Republicans in Congress, who say it amounts to a regulatory power grab over private waters.

On Friday, Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) wrote a letter to the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) asking him to halt its interagency review of the regulation and send it back to the EPA.

“If EPA moves forward with this draft rule, as they have already committed to, the property rights of millions of Americans would be at stake,” Vitter said in a statement. “In an instant, EPA’s expanded jurisdiction would become a federal takeover of all waters in the U.S. That includes your and your neighbor’s pond in the backyard.”

Vitter is the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Goodlatte and Bachus lead the House Judiciary Committee and its subcommittee on regulatory reform, respectively.

The EPA has indicated that its new rule, which is designed to protect larger lakes and rivers that ponds and streams flow into, would be based on a scientific report showing how those waters are connected.

But Republican lawmakers have complained that that report did not receive adequate scrutiny before it was released to the public in September. They say that the agency's outside science advisory board should have had a chance to review the report before it was issued. 

“EPA’s decision to predicate the final rule on the Report implies no amount of criticism will convince the agency to take an alternative path,” the three legislators wrote to OIRA head Howard Shelanski. They said the White House budget office, under which OIRA resides, “should not sanction such inflexibility.”

The draft regulation is currently under review at OIRA, where most regulations go before being issued to the public. The office has until Dec. 17 to finalize its review.

Once the proposed rule is released, the public will be able to submit comments. The EPA will then review the rule and make edits before it is finalized. 

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