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Senators back bill aimed at EPA's guidance policy

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have renewed their fight to halt the Environmental Protection Agency from using regulatory guidance to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act.

Cochran and Wicker are cosponsoring the Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act (S.1006), which would prevent the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from using a guidance document finalized in February 2012 to change legal responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. It also stops the two agencies from issuing similar guidance in the future.

The senators, who cosponsored similar legislation in the 112th Congress, say they are concerned that if allowed to stand, the guidance document could subject anyone with a creek, ditch or pond on his or her property to EPA permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act. The guidance document was not subject to normal federal rulemaking process.

“This regulatory overreach by the EPA should be stopped so that property owners and businesses in Mississippi and elsewhere aren’t subjected to expensive and onerous new federal regulations,” Cochran said. “Consistent with the Constitution, significant changes to federal environmental policy should be initiated by the Congress.”

“EPA and the Army Corps must not be allowed to move forward with their misguided attempt to increase their authority under the ‘Clean Water Act,’” said Wicker, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “This regulatory overreach, which unfairly impacts Mississippi businesses and family farms, will do little to improve water quality. This legislation will protect our landowners by putting a stop to the Administration’s effort to sidestep public input and the normal rulemaking process.”

S.1006 was introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and currently has 26 cosponsors, including Cochran and Wicker. It has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Mississippi senators voted for the Preserve the Waters of the U.S., which Barrasso offered as an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act (S.601). That amendment didn’t reach the 60-vote threshold to be added to the bill, but did receive a bipartisan 52-vote majority, according to Cochran.

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