Ernst Continues Questioning of Pruitt at Confirmation Hearing

Iowa Senator pressed for commitment on RFS and need to scrap WOTUS rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today continued her questioning of President-elect Trump's nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, at his confirmation hearing. Senator Ernst expanded upon the importance of not moving the point of obligation within the RFS, and highlighted the overregulation of the EPA, specifically when it comes to the expanded definition of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. Senator Ernst’s comments follow her earlier questioning of Mr. Pruitt on the importance of the RFS and the public distrust of the EPA.

 

Click here or on the image below to watch the Senator’s questioning.

On RFS (:01 - 2:00 mark):

“The proposal to change the point of obligation under the RFS is an example of a regulatory change that would destabilize the policy environment if adopted, and what’s interesting with the point of obligation, we have two sides that normally oppose each other that have actually come together. So, both biofuel producers and the American Petroleum Institute oppose this change. Both groups. And, I would like to submit a letter for the record showing the united opposition to moving the point of obligation. Mr. Chair, if we could have that entered into the record. And, I’d like to revisit this, if you can, yes or no, as Administrator, will you oppose changes to the point of obligation?”

On WOTUS Rule: (2:00 - 5:25 mark)

“This is a chart of the state of Iowa, and as you can see, with the expanded definition as provided by the EPA, 97 percent of the state of Iowa is now considered Waters of the U.S.

“So if you are in an area like mine, Southwest Iowa here—I live in a Waters of the U.S. Most of the state is covered by the Waters of the U.S. and I bring that up because in a moment I am going to show you another picture of the consequences of the EPA defining what a Water of the U.S. is.

“Last Congress, this committee examined the scope of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction EPA and the Corps of Engineers claim today – even without the new WOTUS rule. The Committee found that EPA and the Corps are already expanding their jurisdiction using the concepts that they codified in WOTUS – they are just doing it by a case by case basis.

“The jurisdictional claims that are already being made are very troubling. For example, the Obama EPA told the public that they will not regulate puddles. They will not regulate puddles. However, we learned that the Corps is already regulating puddles – by claiming that a puddle in a gravel parking lot is, in quotes, a ‘degraded wetland.’ A degraded wetland.

“The Obama EPA also told farmers not to worry about being regulated because ordinary farming activities have a statutory exemption. We learned that the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice have decided that plowing is not an ordinary farming activity. Explain that to my dear deceased grandfather and my father, whose activities in farming include plowing.

“According to the Obama administration, any plowing that pushes soil into furrows is not an exempt farming activity because the tops of plowed furrows can dry out.

“According to a brief filed by the United States, in quotes, ‘The furrow tops now serve as small mountain ranges.’ Right there folks. Small mountain ranges. ‘These furrow tops now provide conditions that are not conducive to growth and development of wetland plant species. They are ‘mini uplands.’”

“This is a picture of the ‘small mountain ranges’ from the government’s expert report. Mr. Pruitt, will you commit to me that if confirmed, EPA will work with the Corps and DOJ to make sure that federal agencies stop trying to regulate ordinary farming practices?”

On Examples Of WOTUS Rule Hurting Farmers:

Click here or on the image below to see Senator Ernst share examples of how WOTUS is hurting farmers.

“I had gone through a series of examples of examples of overreach by the government with the expanded definition of Waters of the U.S. and the Ranking Member had stated that he had a letter that he had received from Administrator Gina McCarthy. And I have no doubt that she was answering those questions honestly because she wasn’t the one making the statements. The statements I presented came from the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice. Now, I know this to be true, these are not as implied from some obscure website off of the internet done by some blogger in a basement somewhere.

The comments actually came from this committee. Case studies from this committee, September of 2016. These are examples of case studies from all across the United States, and I will cite just one that I opened up to:

‘…a landowner in California received an investigation letter from the Corps
informing him that disking performed by a tenant farmer on his land may have resulted in an
unauthorized discharge into WOTUS and that regulators had opened a case against the
landowner….’

They are being implemented case-by-case…

‘…This letter came as a surprise to the landowner, who had been disking this
particular site periodically over the past 15 years to sustain grazing conditions for his cattle, a
practice he believed was ‘normal’ until he received this notice. The Corps told the landowner’s
consultant that “all disking for any purpose and at any depth within any ‘potential WOTUS’ is a
discharge into WOTUS and in the absence of a permit represents an unauthorized discharge and
violation of the Clean Water Act.”’

This is an actual letter from the Corps that was submitted to this committee—the EPW Committee—last year. So this is not made up. This is a very real impact to all Americans, and so I appreciate your stance, Attorney General Pruitt, that if you are confirmed, you will work with those that wish to continue farming normal practices. But this is not made up folks, and we just need everyone to understand that the Corps, the DOJ, and the EPA have gone beyond what we consider to be reasonable application of the law.”

 

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