Wicker Questions Army Official on WOTUS Rule
Miss. Senator Implies Imbalanced Review Process of Regulation
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today questioned Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works, about the development of the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule. Wicker inquired about the interagency coordination between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in drafting and reviewing the rule.
“I have doubts about the legality of this rule,” said Wicker. “My concern lies with the multiple contradictions between the preamble of the final rule and Gen. Peabody’s letter, which stated that the two agencies did not mutually agree on the draft final rule. The general’s letter also implies that the Army Corps was limited in its ability to provide input. Additionally, there is some discrepancy regarding the case-specific determinations allegedly used in developing this potentially harmful rulemaking.”
Wicker’s comments came during a Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Subcommittee hearing titled “Oversight of the Army Corps of Engineers Participation in the Development of the New Regulatory Definition of Waters of the United States.”
Gen. John Peabody, deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations, sent a letter to Ms. Darcy on April 24, 2015, following the release of the draft final rule. Contrary to statements in the preamble of the final rule, Gen. Peabody’s letter implies that the WOTUS rule had not been based on the experience and expertise of the Army Corps of Engineers. Internal communications suggest that the rule was solely driven by EPA and its attempts to increase its jurisdiction over bodies of water.
The rule would redefine the “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, giving the agencies unprecedented authority to regulate streams, wetlands, ponds, and ditches. In other words, Washington bureaucrats would have more power to intrude into Americans’ lives and private property without proof of meaningful environmental benefits. The final WOTUS rule effectively went into place on August 28, 2015.
Wicker is a cosponsor of a joint congressional Resolution of Disapproval introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. The resolution, if enacted, would ensure that WOTUS would have no force or effect. He is also a cosponsor of S. 1140, authored by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., that directs the EPA and Army Corps to issue a revised WOTUS rule to protect traditional navigable waters and wetlands from water pollution, while also protecting farmers, ranchers, and private landowners. This legislation is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.