House Science Committee Questioned EPA Administrator on the Science Behind WOTUS

Published August 1, 2016

Republican members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee questioned in June Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy concerning EPA’s regulatory agenda.

The hearing focused specifically on the scientific basis and regulatory authority behind EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. 

WOTUS Under Fire

Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI), a member of the committee, pressed McCarthy at the hearing about the agency’s reasoning for its expansion of the federal government’s jurisdiction over ephemeral bodies of water located on millions of acres of private land. Moolenaar says the majority of Congress believes the agency’s final rule goes beyond what the Clean Water Act allows.

“I think it’s a pretty strong indication when the majority of Congress has voted to disapprove of the rule and 32 states are suing over that rule,” Moolenaar said. “I don’t know if there is anything you can do to rescind it or modify it at this point.”

Moolenaar pointed to Senate Joint Resolution 22, introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), as evidence of Congress’ disapproval of WOTUS. SJR 22, which would have vacated or canceled WOTUS, passed the House without amendment on January 13, 2016, but it was vetoed by President Barack Obama on January 19. The Senate failed in its attempt to override the veto.

Although Congress has failed to rein in the Obama administration’s attempt to expand its powers through WOTUS, recent court decisions have called into question the rule’s validity. The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay on WOTUS after 13 states brought suit challenging the rule. The stay blocks WOTUS’ implementation until the appellate court can determine the constitutionality of the rules.

In the court’s decision to issue the stay, it found WOTUS appears to be “at odds” with key Supreme Court rulings.

“We conclude that petitioners have demonstrated a substantial possibility of success on the merits of their claims,” wrote Judge David McKeague in his majority decision.

‘Don’t trust McCarthy, EPA’

In her testimony before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, McCarthy claimed EPA went “above and beyond” to protect farmers’ interests when crafting the WOTUS rule, a statement Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, calls “an alternate reality.”

“EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s testimony to Congress is always amusing,” said Ebell. “She presents an alternate reality and dares members of Congress to point out she’s fantasizing.

“Contrary to McCarthy’s claims, WOTUS is a vast expansion of federal jurisdiction over private land, [and it ignores] two significant Supreme Court decisions that limit the reach of the Clean Water Act,” Ebell said. “McCarthy and WOTUS show a blatant disregard for the legitimate concerns of farmers, ranchers, and all other landowners.

“My advice to the agriculture community or any other regulated community is not to believe anything Gina McCarthy says,” Ebell said.

Michael McGrady ([email protected]writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.