In May 2015, former President Barack Obama ignored the legitimate concerns of Iowa’s farmers, manufacturers and small businesses and announced an egregious rule expanding the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), a move that sent shockwaves through rural communities across the country.
Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created this rule with little to no regard for the voices of hardworking folks in communities around the country. Folks like Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, a fifth-generation farmer and small business owner from Lake City, testified before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee on the impact of the WOTUS rule. Despite her testimony, the Obama Administration went ahead with its overreaching WOTUS rule, giving the federal government authority to regulate 97 percent of the land in Iowa.
There’s no doubt that Iowans, and all Americans, want sensible safeguards that keep our environment clean and protect our nation’s water. They want to make sure the water on their land is clean and safe, just like I do. But that doesn’t mean they want a one-size-fits all solution from Washington that is vague and overly expansive, like the 2015 Obama rule.
Since then, Iowans from all walks of life, including diverse stakeholders that might not normally agree on many issues, voiced to me the need to scrap the Obama rule and to replace it with a workable rule that clearly defines what waters fall under federal jurisdiction. So we got to work.
Along with Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming – who is the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee that I sit on – I introduced a proposal that provided clear principles and directions for the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to craft a WOTUS rule that actually took into consideration positions held by key stakeholders, like Ms. Maulsby, and not just Washington bureaucrats.
I also helped lead the effort on legislation, with 46 of my colleagues, to scrap the Obama Administration’s ill-conceived rule. Our bill passed both the Senate and the House with bipartisan support. And, to no one’s surprise, President Obama vetoed it.
But we didn’t give up; we kept fighting.
Before his inauguration, I signaled my intention to work with President Trump and his administration to get Obama’s harmful WOTUS rule off the books. I’m glad President Trump understands the importance of getting Washington’s hands out of Iowans’ lives. Almost immediately after taking office, he delivered on that and issued an executive order to start the process of rolling back Obama’s harmful WOTUS rule, relieving hard-working Americans from one of Washington’s most egregious power grabs.
Just last week, after working alongside the Trump Administration these last few years, we’ve successfully finalized a workable rule that clearly defines what waters fall under federal jurisdiction. And I believe Iowa’s farmers and manufacturers are breathing a sigh of relief. We’ve rolled back the far-reaching Obama-era regulation and are now providing more certainty with a new, clearer definition of WOTUS.
This is a huge win for folks in Iowa. But there’s still a role we can play in Congress to ensure this rule doesn’t get overturned by future administrations. That’s why I’ve introduced the Define WOTUS Act to make a reasonable definition for WOTUS – just like this new rule – permanent and to provide more predictability and workability to Iowans for years to come.
Under this president, and with the hard work we’re doing under our pro-growth policies in the Senate, we’ve fought to get the government off the backs of farmers and small businesses.
From deregulation, like getting rid of Obama’s WOTUS rule, to the major wins we’ve had on trade – like the USMCA, the phase one China deal, and the Japan agreement – we’re spurring a sense of optimism and economic growth across rural America.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.