Agency Joins Multi-State Complaint against Federal Government on Expanded Definition of Waters of the United States

Agency Joins Multi-State Complaint against Federal Government on Expanded Definition of Waters of the United States

By / State News / Wednesday, 05 August 2015 04:00

RALEIGH, N.C. : July 21st, 2015 - The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) yesterday joined 27 other states in complaints against the federal Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, that challenge its recently published rule to expand the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the federal Clean Water Act. DENR believes the new definition would expand the assertion of jurisdiction by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a significant portion of the state of North Carolina.
“DENR has joined 27 other states in taking legal action to prevent the federal government from unconstitutionally subjecting a significant portion of North Carolina
to excessive federal and state regulation,” DENR General Counsel Sam Hayes said. “North Carolina’s water quality programs, many of which go beyond federal requirements, are a model for the nation and have contributed to the steady improvement of the quality of the state’s waters. EPA’s proposed rule is unnecessary, unwarranted and yet another example of the federal government trying to assume additional authority over state matters.”
North Carolina filed its complaint in U.S. District Court in Georgia along with ten other states. The complaint alleges that the rule is unconstitutional and represents the latest effort by the federal government to expand its authority and control over the daily lives of American citizens. DENR believes the proposed redefinition may place enormous swaths of land in North Carolina under federal jurisdiction and unnecessarily stifle economic growth and prosperity with little, if any, environmental benefit.
In addition to the complaint filed in Georgia, similar complaints were filed by states in U.S. District Courts in North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. A total of 28 states to date have sued EPA and the Corps of Engineers in five U.S. District Courts due to the extraordinary regulatory overreach of the rule.
Secretary Donald van der Vaart testified in opposition to the rule before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in March. Van der Vaart’s written testimony and a video archive of the hearing can be found on the committee’s website at http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/waters-of-the-united-states-stakeholder-perspectives-on-the-impacts-of-epas-proposed-rule
Officials of many other state environmental agencies have also testified in opposition to this rule before Congress and in public statements filed with EPA and the Corps of Engineers. EPA received more than 20,500 public comments on the proposed rulemaking.
Secretary Donald van der Vaart testified explained in his testimony, "As it stands, notwithstanding the EPA’s claims to the contrary, the recently proposed definition of the phrase “waters of the United States,” and the definitions of terms related to the determination of “waters of the United States,” would profoundly expand federal jurisdiction over activities in the State of North Carolina and would result in greater uncertainty, higher costs, and risk for our state’s farmers and foresters. The EPA has characterized the new definition as a “clarification,” but the only thing made clear is the EPA’s objective to expand federal jurisdiction in ways that strain the meaning of the language in the
Supreme Court decisions as a means to bring a potentially enormous amount of land within federal jurisdiction. The proposed rule also expands CWA (Clean Water Act) jurisdiction by potentially pulling within that jurisdiction ephemeral drainages, ditches, ponds, and isolated wetlands, any of which may be located within farms in North Carolina, as well as in urban and rural across the state, with the potential to seriously add to the regulatory burden on both the private and public sectors, including, for example, the construction industry and highway construction. None of these features have previously been subject to federal regulation, except in specific fact-driven instances."

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