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Rolling Back Federal Overreach

Written by Cynthia Lummis

By U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis

Before the legislative winter coming with the 2016 presidential election year, this fall in D.C. we are fighting hard against the most unprecedented federal overreach I have ever seen.

Perhaps the most harmful of the overreach is the Waters of the United States Rule, or WOTUS for short. This rule, crafted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would claim federal jurisdiction over lakes, streams, seasonal creeks and other non-navigable waters. Essentially this rule overthrows over a hundred years of water law, seizes state managed waters and gives control to the federal government. 

The EPA is incapable of responsibly managing our waters. Earlier this month I joined colleagues to hold a Congressional hearing on the recent EPA pollution of the Animas River in southwestern Colorado. The EPA disregarded warnings of a local geologist and broke loose over 3 million gallons of polluted wastewater that dumped into the Animus River and spread as far as New Mexico and Utah, turning the river orange. The effects of the acidic and toxic heavy metal sediment will harm these natural resources for years to come. The EPA is the last agency we should trust any waters with, let alone all of them. Senator John Barrasso is heading up legislation in the Senate that would clearly define waters of the U.S. and officially protect state managed waters from federal overreach, and I have voted with a majority of the House repeatedly to stop this rule. I will continue to work with the Wyoming delegation and others to prevent the EPA from drowning hard working Americans in red tape.

If anyone wants to know how far the EPA will overreach they can just ask Andy Johnson of Fort Bridger. Mr. Johnson built a stock pond on his property in 2012. He spoke with state agencies and received all the necessary permitting to build a dam across a seasonal stream on his property. Then the EPA got wind of it. Despite an exemption from the Clean Water Act for stock ponds, the EPA ordered him to dismantle the dam because he introduced “pollutants” like dirt and gravel into the stream. He is now facing the $37,500 a day fine imposed on violators of the Clean Water Act. Mr. Johnson refused to follow the EPA’s demands and has instead filed suit to protect himself from the EPA’s bullying. We will only see more of these cases under the WOTUS rule.

Even the Department of Labor (DOL) has joined the fray and proposed a rule that would especially hurt sheep growers in Wyoming and throughout the West by forcing a devastating, one-size-fits-all requirement on ranchers who hire seasonal immigrant workers under H2A Visa “special procedures.” This rule would single-handedly suffocate sheep growers in Wyoming with red tape, putting many out of business. As Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Interior, I held a field briefing in Evanston to draw attention to this rule and the severe impacts it would have on cattle and sheep growers alike. The briefing has drawn significant attention and pressure on the DOL to reexamine their position that would eliminate this strong American industry.

From the grizzly bear to the sage grouse and the gray wolf, I continue to fight to ensure Wyoming’s voice is heard on endangered species issues. As standard protocol, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) puts closed-door court settlement deadlines ahead of boots-on-the-ground conservation. What federal bureaucrats fail to realize is that there is a better way to serve species and people in the 21st Century. It’s with collaborative conservation, driven by people closest to the land. The will to conserve at the state and local level has never been stronger, and we have the expertise and resources necessary to conserve species. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is over 40 years old and needs to be updated to promote true stewardship over needless litigation.

My colleagues and I introduced reforms to the ESA specifically with local conservation and litigation reform in mind. I also joined with Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin to introduce bipartisan legislation to restore the FWS decision to delist the wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes Region. The wolf has long been recovered and needs to be returned to state management, without serial litigants standing in the way.

 

This administration is down to its last year and is flailing to come up with any accomplishments. We need to be vigilant against last-ditch efforts to ram through federal control on every front. Whether it’s our water, our wildlife, our other natural resources or our freedom, I will be fighting hard to roll back the push for federal control wherever it crops up.