US Senator Joe Donnelly says the Environmental Protection Agency needs to collaborate with small businesses and the agricultural community before crafting new water regulations, legislation co-sponsored by the Hoosier Democrat failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate Tuesday.
The EPA regulates navigable waterways under the Clean Water Act. But the federal agency sought to broaden its regulatory reach by redefining what’s known as the Waters of the United States law to include smaller bodies of water, including streams, ponds, and drainage ditches.
Environmental groups hail the move as an important step to help improve water quality and prevent pollution. But Senator Joe Donnelly says the EPA ignored the concerns of farms and small businesses who say the new rule will be a costly and unnecessary burden.
“At what point does the EPA…at what point does our administration… actually put some confidence in our farmers, in our ranchers, in our small businesses?” Donnelly asks.
A federal appeals court has already halted the current rule from going into effect. Donnelly says Congress needs to step in and provide guidance to the EPA to take the regulation’s future out of the hands of the judicial branch.
Republican Senator Dan Coats joined Donnelly in a failed attempt to advance the measure. Coats, echoing his Democratic counterpart, says the bill would have constructively addressed the EPA rule's undue burdens on businesses, manufacturers, farmers and land owners.