Herrell: Water protection changes are inexcusable federal overreach

Jun 16, 2021

Commentary: From how to spend your money to how to manage your land, the Biden administration thinks they know best. Take for example this week’s move by the Environmental Protection Agency to begin unravelling the Navigable Water Protection Rule and bring back the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule. This “Washington-Knows-Best” decision is a direct attack on the private property rights of millions of farmers, ranchers, and homeowners.

In 2015, the original WOTUS Rule implemented by the Obama administration weaponized the Clean Water Act against private landowners. The rule was a job killer that put Washington bureaucrats in charge of regulating puddles, small ponds, and streams on private property. WOTUS required landowners to get permits for the simplest of tasks and created confusion about what water sources were actually regulated. This lack of clarity resulted in law-abiding citizens unknowingly becoming criminals.

On the other hand, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule put to bed 45 years of litigation, was easy to understand, and empowered property owners and local decision makers. These are the men and women who know the land best and know how to protect the water supplies they rely on.

Federal regulations should be easy to understand and easy to follow for those who are affected by them. WOTUS failed these critical tests, which is why it was opposed by organizations like the American Farm Bureau and National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association (NRECA), and why more than half the states sued the federal government to overturn the rule.

The people most affected by a possible return of the WOTUS rule, our rural communities, are already struggling with the lingering effects of the pandemic and the inflation Washington’s spending spree has created. In fact, this is the highest inflation has been since immediately before the financial crisis of 2008. This inflationary tax means you are having to pay more every time you go to the grocery store, a restaurant, or fill up your car with gas prices higher than they’ve been since 2014.

We all agree that clean water is a national priority, but substituting Washington regulations for rural commonsense won’t make our water any cleaner. What this will do is put hardworking farmers and ranchers out of business. Instead of applying the heavy hand of the federal government to infringe on private property rights, President Biden should be empowering landowners to manage their own property like New Mexicans have been doing effectively for decades.

I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with many of my congressional colleagues in opposing this decision. Even before the Biden administration acted to reassert federal control, I signed on as an original cosponsor of Representative Marianette Miller-Meeks (IA-02)’s resolution stating that the Navigable Waters Rule ought to be left in place. I will continue to work with my colleagues from across the country to protect our rural communities from inexcusable federal overreach.