Forty-seven Senators on Friday issued a joint resolution disapproving the Waters of the U.S. rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, which they say expands the scope of federal authority over land and waterways in the United States under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
The final rule was released in May, a year after its initial appearance.
The resolution reads that, "Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency relating to "Clean Water Rule: Definition of 'Waters of the United States,'" and such a rule shall have no force or effect."
The resolution is designed to send a "message to the EPA and ACE that they failed to address the concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses in Iowa and across the country," according to the office of Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.
"This ill-conceived rule ignores the thoughtful comments and serious concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses across the county," said Ernst, a sponsor of the resolution.
"Furthermore, its expanded definition causes confusion, uncertainty and unnecessary red tape. Simply put, this one size fits all method is the wrong approach that puts our agriculture community at a disadvantage."
Senators on the Committee on Environment and Public Works in June approved legislation to require a rewrite of the WOTUS rule, though it has not been considered by the full Senate. The House, however, passed a measure in May that would repeal the regulation.
Additional concerns about the rule – which took effect on Aug. 28 – have surfaced since that time. According to a series of memos released by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Army Corps appeared to question the merit of the rule, while the EPA has been accused of using questionable methods to obtain public support for the regulation.
Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Tom Marino, R-Pa., led the delegation of about 100 legislators asked the Office of the Inspector General to review the rule in August, suggesting that a formal investigation is required to determine if EPA used inappropriate tactics to solicit comments on the WOTUS regulation.
Various legal challenges to the rule remain as well, though a 13-state lawsuit seeking an injunction on the Waters of the U.S. rule was successful in a North Dakota court in late August, just as the rule took effect.
That ruling, however, only applied to the 13 states named in the suit and did not affect other states in separate cases.
Most key ag groups have long stood in opposition to the rule, which they say could limit private landowners' rights and negatively impact farming operations. Several are in favor of a full re-write of the rule with greater attention to farmers' input.