A big victory for the West
By Congressman Scott Tipton
Published Thursday, March 9, 2017 8:40 am
The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that was issued by the Obama Administration was one of the most onerous federal water and land grabs in history -- it undermined state water law and priority-based systems, inserted federal control over western water rights, and put decisions about our water in the hands of Washington bureaucrats.
The courts already issued a stay of the rule while its legality is under review, but the president recently took action to permanently protect the water and private property rights of hard-working Americans.
I had the opportunity to stand alongside my colleague and chair of the Congressional Western Caucus, Paul Gosar (AZ-04), and several western county commissioners, including Commissioner Rose Pugliese from Mesa County, while the president signed an executive order requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to review WOTUS and rescind any aspects of the rule that are inconsistent with federal law.
Water is the lifeblood of the West, and for over a century, state water law and priority-based systems have successfully protected water rights to ensure water users and communities retain the ability to responsibly access and manage their resources.
In 2015, the state of Colorado joined several other Western states in a lawsuit against the WOTUS rule. At that time, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a statement, "The States assert that the EPA's new rule wrongly broadens federal authority by placing a majority of water and land resources management in the hands of the federal government. Congress and the courts have repeatedly affirmed the States have primary responsibility for the protection of intrastate waters and land management."
In thanking Attorney General Coffman for joining the lawsuit, the Colorado Farm Bureau said, "The rule fundamentally changes how EPA would regulate waters in the United States. Furthermore, it takes liberty with two Supreme Court rulings that clearly defined where EPA jurisdiction rests regarding WOTUS ... Among the numerous questionable provisions, the rule would define 'navigable waters' so as to regulate countless ephemeral drains, ditches and 'wetlands' that only contain water when it rains."
We all want access to clean and reliable water supplies. This is why the Clean Water Act was signed into law in 1948 and expanded in 1972. What we don't want, and what goes directly against the Constitution, is for unelected Washington bureaucrats to legislate through rulemaking. This is what the EPA did when it finalized WOTUS.
Not only did the EPA overstep its constitutional authority, a report released by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the EPA broke the law by engaging in "covert propaganda" when rolling out the controversial rule.
Regardless of our beliefs on specific policy issues, I believe that all Americans respect the fact that our founding fathers created three branches of government and vested legislative powers in Congress in Article I of the Constitution. It is the duty of all Americans and all elected officials to protect and preserve these founding principles.
Congressman Scott R. Tipton represents Colorado's Third District. He serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Natural Resources. He is vice chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.