The bill would stop the EPA and Army Corps' proposed changes to the Waters of the United States definition and the interpretive rule that accompanied the proposal earlier this year from moving forward. If finalized, the proposed rule would dictate what waters fall under the Clean Water Act and, therefore, what waters also fall under the jurisdiction of the federal agencies.
The bill has gathered support from the House Rules Committee, where on Monday legislators were scheduled to determine rules of debate for a larger House vote later in the week. The House bill has more than 120 co-sponsors.
Farm and commodity groups like the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and American Farm Bureau oppose the Waters of the United States proposal, citing several issues with expanded jurisdiction.
According to AFBF, the rule would expand jurisdiction of the EPA such that the agency could have control over "virtually all waters" and would no longer be constrained to waters deemed "navigable."
"The list of waters deemed 'non-navigable' is exceptionally narrow, providing that few, if any waters, fall outside federal CWA jurisdiction," an AFBF WOTUS policy primer notes. "Such a shift in policy means that EPA and the Corps could regulate any or all waters found within a state, no matter how small or seemingly unconnected to a federal interest."
The Obama Administration statement, however, suggests that the proposed rule would clarify the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act, would reduce regulatory uncertainty, and is "responsive to calls for rulemaking from Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court."
The White House said that if the bill were to pass, it could delay action to clarify the scope of the CWA for up to two years and require more collaborative consultation.
Action on the bill follows the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Aug. 27 public release of maps produced by the EPA that detail all the waters and wetlands of each of the 50 U.S. states.
The maps had previously remained private, but former EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe agreed to release them following a request from Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, during a hearing earlier this summer.
According to Smith, the maps "show the EPA's plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country."
More maps, created by livestock groups last week, also claim to show the proposal's extent.