U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement on his vote to overturn the recently revised definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). This new and overreaching rule was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on January 18th, 2023 and went into effect on March 20th, 2023. Senator Manchin was the only Democratic cosponsor of the joint resolution of disapproval that passed the Senate by a vote of 53-43.
“The Administration’s WOTUS rule is yet another example of dangerous federal overreach. The proposed changes would inject further regulatory confusion, place unnecessary burdens on small businesses, manufacturers, farmers and local communities, and cause serious economic damage. It is essential to ensure clean water for all West Virginians and Americans, but we can achieve this without regulating our hard-working people out of business. I’m proud to support this resolution of disapproval and I encourage President Biden to accept this clear and bipartisan rejection of his Administration’s overreaching and unnecessary rule.”
The Clean Water Act (CWA) was established by Congress to restore and protect the quality of the nation’s surface waters. Unfortunately, the CWA fails to adequately define which bodies of water are protected under federal law, and the law’s ambiguity over the definition of “waters of the United States, including territorial seas,” has led to decades of litigation, regulatory uncertainty and partisan disagreement. In 2015, the Obama Administration issued the Clean Water Rule, the first significant definition change since the 1980s, and Senator Manchin opposed the unreasonable revisions. The Trump Administration’s 2020Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) rescinded the 2015 rule and further narrowed the scope of WOTUS. A federal district court vacated the Trump Administration’sNWPR in 2021 and the pre-2015 regulatory framework applied until the Biden Administration’s new rule went into effect earlier this month.
This new WOTUS rule places unnecessary and costly burdens on farmers, ranchers, landowners and future infrastructure and energy projects by:
- Substantially expanding federal jurisdiction over streams and wetlands and encroaching on states’ authorities to regulate land and water within their borders;
- Adopting a subjective “significant nexus” test that allows for federal authority over determining when temporary, tributary and other upland waters are regulated;
- Rendering farmers, developers, builders, and other landowners more reliant on the shifting and unreliable interpretations of the EPA and Army Corps.
On March 9th, 2023, the House of Representatives passed a joint resolution under the CRA of the WOTUS rule 227-198.