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Chairman Roberts Continues Fight Against WOTUS on Senate Floor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today on the Senate floor spoke in favor of advancing The Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory overreach on Waters of the United States (WOTUS). 

The Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140) was approved by the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee in June and requires EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the finalized WOTUS rule and restart the full rulemaking process to develop a new rule in consultation with stakeholders, state partners and regulated entities. Chairman Roberts is an original cosponsor of S. 1140. For audio, and to view a short video on the bill, click here

Chairman Roberts in March held a hearing on the WOTUS rule, which featured testimony from state and local officials responsible for the administration and enforcement of the WOTUS rule, along with agricultural industry representatives impacted by the burdensome regulation. For witness info, testimony, and to watch the hearing, click here.  

The final WOTUS rule continues to be fraught with controversy – from its detrimental impacts on farm country to the questionable legality of the rulemaking process. Ongoing lawsuits involving over 30 states and industries impacted by the final rule only add further confusion about implementation and applicability of the final rule across the rest of the country. 

Click here for audio and video of Roberts’ remarks. 

The following are Senator Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Mr. President, I rise today as the Senate considers an issue that is critically important to agriculture and rural America. 

It is my hope the Senate will advance landmark legislation that I, along with a bipartisan group of colleagues, have introduced in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule that redefines “Waters of the United States” – commonly referred to as WOTUS – under the Clean Water Act.   

I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of S. 1140 and represent agriculture and rural America’s charge in pushing back against EPA’s egregious federal overreach.   

EPA’s final WOTUS rule would adversely impact a vast cross-section of industries – including agriculture.  

As I have said before, I fear that the sheer number of regulations imposed by this Administration is causing the public to lose faith in our government. Too often I hear from my constituents that they feel “ruled” not “governed.”  

Mr. President, S. 1140 is in response to exactly that sentiment.  

As Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, I have heard directly from farmers, ranchers, state agency officials and various industries in Kansas and throughout the country that ultimately would be subject to these new burdensome and costly federal requirements.    

Mr. President, the message is unanimous and clear – this is the wrong approach and the wrong rule for agriculture, rural America, and small communities.   

According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, EPA’s final rule would expand the number of water bodies in Kansas classified as “Waters of the United States” subject to all Clean Water Act programs and requirements by 460 percent, totaling 170,000 stream miles. This expanded scope will further exacerbate the burden of duplicative pesticide permitting requirements and other over-regulation by this Administration. This simply will not work and makes zero sense, especially in places like arid Western Kansas.  

Furthermore, the final rule undercuts a state’s sovereign ability as the primary regulator of water resources who administers and carries out Clean Water Act programs. 

Even more troubling, in recent months it has become apparent through the release of internal government documents between EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – that there are serious concerns and questions with regard to the legality of EPA’s role and actions during the public comment period to garner support for the final rule. The tactics employed by EPA throughout this rulemaking process completely undermine the integrity of the interagency review process and the public’s trust.   

EPA claims that they have “listened” to farmers and ranchers about the concerns they have raised. EPA not only stacked the deck against farmers and ranchers, EPA deliberately ignored them.   

This bill requires EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the final rule and craft a new rule in meaningful consultation with stakeholders, state partners, and regulated entities – who are ready and waiting to work with EPA. 

Mr. President, all of us want to protect clean water. No one here – especially agriculture – wants to threaten such a valuable and integral natural resource that sustains our livelihood. 

It is time that the Administration listen AND develop a rule that is effective for farmers, ranchers and rural America.  

This WOTUS regulation is the number one concern I hear about in farm country – and over 90 agricultural groups have signed a letter in support of this legislation. Additionally, ongoing litigation involving 31 states challenging the final rule only adds further confusion about implementation and applicability of the final rule across the rest of the country. It is time for Congress to intervene.  

I thank my colleagues who have joined me in this effort and I look forward to advancing this issue. I urge all my colleagues to support S. 1140 and vote yes.