Donnelly, Barrasso Introduce Bill to Improve “Waters of the U.S.” Rule

Lead bipartisan group of senators in introducing the Water Quality Protection Act

Washington, DC — U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN), along with U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), led a bipartisan group of senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in introducing the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, legislation to address the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers’ attempt to define the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). 

Donnelly said, “No one wants cleaner water or better land conditions than the families who live on American farms. That is why it is incredibly important that the EPA rewrite the Waters of the United States rule with input from the people who live and work on the land and alongside these waters every day. I am proud to work on this bipartisan legislation because Democrats and Republicans can agree that the EPA needs to consult with states, small businesses, and farmers on something so critical as defining ‘Waters of the U.S.’ in a common sense way—something they failed to do the first time.”

The bill says that the Administration cannot complete the rule without following (1) the principles and (2) the procedural steps in the bill.

  • In the principles, the bill includes explicit protections for waters that most everyone agrees should be covered, like navigable waters, drinking water sources, and wetlands that filter out pollutants from our rivers and lakes. It also provides commonsense exemptions for isolated ponds and agricultural or roadside ditches—most of which EPA has indicated they never intended to cover.
  • The procedural steps include reviewing economic and small business impact and requiring consultation with stakeholders such as the states and the ag community, including soil and water conservation districts.

Finally, the bill gives a clear deadline, requiring the EPA and Army Corps to complete its rule by December 31, 2016.

Don Villwock, President of the Indiana Farm Bureau, said, “This bill provides a meaningful and constructive approach by giving Congress a much greater role in shaping future regulation without doing the EPA’s job.  It will establish the guidelines that were absent before and provide states with greater influence. We thank Senator Donnelly for his leadership and efforts to craft a bi-partisan solution addressing our very serious concerns over EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule.” 

Steven E. Fivel, Assistant General Counsel, of Simon Property Group, said, “We thank Senator Donnelly for introducing the Water Quality Protection Act because it would make significant strides in avoiding costly and burdensome new rules for property owners.  The importance of getting the rule 'right' cannot be overstated, as a result of the significant impacts that this rule will have on the retail real estate industry,"

Herb Ringel, a farmer from Wabash and president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association, said, “Indiana corn farmers support clean water and the mission of the Clean Water Act, but we don’t support EPA using it as a means for the federal government to regulate roadside ditches and standing water across our state. We strongly support Senator Donnelly’s efforts to put some common sense into WOTUS that still protects our waters and helps Indiana farmers from overregulation from the EPA.”

Dave Lowe, a farmer from Dunkirk and president of the Indiana Soybean Alliance, said, “We thank Senator Donnelly for his efforts to protect Indiana farmers from this overreach by the EPA. We hope all members of Congress will join Senator Donnelly in support of this common sense, pro farmer legislation.”

The legislation is also supported by the Waters Advocacy Coalition, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and a large number of other ag organizations.