Rothfus Fights Federal Overreach

Sep 17, 2014

Congressman Keith Rothfus (PA-8) has come out strong against a proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act -- the act which regulates quality standards for all of the surface water in the United States.

Rothfus referred to the proposed CWA expansion as “federal government overreach” and backed up his words by voting in favor of the Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (House Resolution 5078). The resolution is designed to block any attempt to expand the Act’s definition of “waters of the United States.”  

The proposed expansion was drafted in March and backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  It would expand the Clean Water Act to cover “ephemeral” streams and wetlands.  Ephemeral bodies of water come and go depending on recent rainfall or seasonal conditions.

But Rothfus and other House Republicans are worried about the implications of broadening the scope of the CWA.

Rothfus said the proposal would “result in limited environmental improvements and threaten jobs and economic security throughout our communities.” He added, the proposal “would be prohibitively expensive if not impossible for small businesses, farms, or other members of the community to dig or otherwise develop property determined to fall under federal jurisdiction.  Obama Administration overreach would also tie farmers up in red tape, restricting their ability to plant and spray crops, build fences, and manage their lands.”

H. R. 5078 passed in the House with a 262-152 majority. Only one Republican voted against it while four did not vote on the resolution.

The bill would give discretion to the states on how best to regulate their ephemeral streams and wetlands.

Although Rothfus is worried about the effect the expansion would have on rural communities, it’s not clear whether the proposal would inhibit the day-to-day life of farmers. The Washington Post reported back in March that “farming activity that does not involve discharging a pollutant” would be exempt from the proposed expansion, and “the new proposal exempts farmers who are undertaking one of 53 approved conservation measures from having to seek a federal discharge or fill permit.”

Broadening the definition of “waters in the U.S.” to include seasonal bodies of water would entail a large expansion of EPA oversight. 60 percent of all streams in the U.S. are seasonal and predicated on rainfall, with a vast majority of the streams in the Southwest of the country falling under this category. In addition, state’s like Florida support large swaths of wetlands within its borders.