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Tom Rooney Ready to Take On EPA Over Obama's Latest Water Regs

May 27, 2015 - 3:15pm

A Florida congressman warned the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as it showcased its new “Clean Water Rule” on Wednesday that he will cut the purse strings if it looks to enact the latest round of regulations from the Obama White House.

The administration insists the new rule will protect smaller bodies of water from pollution, including streams and tributaries, insisting these waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act.

The Obama administration sent out EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy to explain the new regulations which they say will “protect the streams and wetlands we rely on for our health, our economy, and our way of life.”

Despite the additional regulations, McCarthy and Darcy insisted the new rule will benefit the economy and will boost agriculture.

“Our economy depends on clean water,” McCarthy and Darcy noted on Wednesday. “Major economic sectors -- from manufacturing and energy production to agriculture, food service, tourism, and recreation -- depend on clean water to function and flourish. Without clean water, business grinds to a halt -- a reality too many local small-business owners faced in Toledo last year when drinking water became contaminated for several days.

“Clean water helps farms thrive, and the rule preserves common-sense agriculture exemptions,” they added. “Farms across America depend on clean and reliable water for livestock, crops, and irrigation. Activities like planting, harvesting, and moving livestock across streams have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulations; the Clean Water Rule doesn’t change that. The final rule doesn’t create any new permitting requirements for agriculture, maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions, and even adds exclusions for features like artificial lakes and ponds, water-filled depressions from construction, and grass swales -- all to make clear our goal is to stay out of agriculture’s way. Just like before, a Clean Water Act permit is only needed if water is going to be polluted or destroyed -- and all exemptions for agriculture stay in place.”

Insisting the new rule provided “greater clarity” on the Clean Water Act, the Obama administration officials insisted stakeholders weighed in on the new measure and that it protects private property.

“The rule only protects waters historically covered under the Clean Water Act,” McCarthy and Darcy insisted. “It doesn’t interfere with private property rights, and it only covers water -- not land use. It also doesn’t regulate most ditches, doesn’t regulate groundwater or shallow subsurface flows, and doesn’t change policy on irrigation or water transfers.”

But from his perch on the U.S. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., said he intended to ensure the EPA won’t have the funds to pursue these new regulations.

“I’m going to fight as hard as I can to make sure the EPA does not get one dime to enforce this historic overreach onto farms in Florida and across the country,” Rooney said. “The rule issued today by the Obama administration is a blatant power grab that clearly violates the intent of the law and the will of Congress, and we will not fund it.”

Rooney noted earlier in the month that Congress passed the “Regulatory Integrity Protection Act” to make the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers develop a new rule.

“Floridians understand and respect our waterways unlike any other state,” Rooney said. “Environmentalists, farmers and businesses have come together to protect our environment and eliminate water pollutants, and their efforts are working. It’s time for the federal government to learn from this functioning dynamic.

“We all want clean water, but for the EPA to start regulating farm ponds and puddles would be laughable if the costs weren’t so high," Rooney added. “Complying with the EPA’s new rules would cost Florida farmers, families and local governments billions of dollars. It will slow our economic recovery, kill jobs in our state, and hurt our farmers’ ability to feed the nation.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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