A rare bipartisan 53-43 vote by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution rescinding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of Waters of the United States.
The resolution, sponsored by the West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito was voted on by both Republicans and supported by Democratic members Joe Manchin III from West Virginia, Jon Tester from Montana, and Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen from Nevada, and Independent Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona.
President Joe Biden has threatened to veto the bill.
The final WOTUS rule went into effect on March 20. Farmers and ranchers worry that the vague and conflicting WOTUS rules complicate an already complex process and will expose farmers to costly fines as well as criminal charges.
The 2023 WOTUS Rule also expands the “significant nexus” test, which, in part, was challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Sackett v. EPA. A ruling is expected before the court adjourns in June.
“Despite requests by Members of Congress, farmers, ranchers and small businesses all across the country to delay any new regulation until that case is decided, EPA and the Corps disregarded this commonsense request and prematurely finalized yet another complex rule that lacks durability,” wrote AFBF President Duvall. “The Court’s decision in Sackett could render substantial portions of the final rule non-applicable and irrelevant — and require yet another WOTUS rule.”
If Biden does sign the resolution, it will reset WOTUS to pre-Obama Administration rules from 2015, blocking federal agencies from using similar, broad definitions in the future.
In 2020, the EPA narrowed WOTUS waters to “navigable waters” under President Donald Trump. The reopening of the issue allows for a broader definition, and more stringent enforcement.
In a letter to President Biden, AFBF President Zippy Duvall wrote, “America’s farmers and ranchers need a clear, consistent, and transparent WOTUS rule so they can continue to protect our natural resources, operate with certainty, and create jobs in their communities. Continual revisions, remands, and reintroductions of WOTUS definitions only sow confusion and ultimately dissuade future investment in climate-smart agriculture. However, the new definition of WOTUS exceeds Congressional authority in multiple respects, ignores recent Supreme Court case law interpreting the Clean Water Act, and will be impossible to implement consistently in the field.”