November 03, 2015

Manchin Votes to Block Overreaching WOTUS Rule

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today voted to advance a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule.

“The EPA wrote and finalized this rule without consulting some of the people who care about clean water the most: everyday West Virginians and Americans,” Senator Manchin said. “This overreaching rule would impose a heavy financial burden on all of us and would lead interruptions on myriad of economic activities in West Virginia, including highway and road construction, farming, and a variety of public works projects. It is completely unreasonable that under the EPA’s WOTUS rule, our country’s unnavigable waters would be subject to the same regulations as our greatest lakes and rivers, and we cannot allow this rule to be implemented as it is currently written.”

Earlier today, Senator Manchin delivered remarks on the Senate floor calling on the chamber to pass the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, legislation he cosponsored to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule following consultation with states, local governments, and small businesses that would be directly impacted by the rule. The Senate failed to proceed the bipartisan Federal Water Quality Protection Act.

To watch a YouTube video of Senator Manchin’s remarks, please click here.

The full text of Senator’s remarks as prepared for delivery is included below:

M. President, today I rise as a proud co-sponsor of, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. 

I’ve spoken on the Senate floor many times before about the burdens that the EPA has continued to impose on the hard-working citizens of my state. 

Today, however, I am not speaking on just the mining jobs that the EPA endangers; rather the rule we discuss today puts in jeopardy jobs in virtually every sector and the local economies across this great country. 

The EPA has once again dangerously overreached its boundaries by unnecessarily expanding the definition of water sources it can regulate.

If imposed, the agency’s Waters of the United States Rule, known as WOTUS, would have a harmful impact on my state of West Virginia and in communities across the U.S.

Again, the WOTUS rule would not just impact the coal mining in West Virginia; today I’m here to stand up for many local issues that apply throughout the country.

The EPA wrote and finalized this rule without consulting with some of the people who care about clean water the most: everyday West Virginians and Americans.

The WOTUS rule would impose heavy financial penalties on all of us – including our small business owners, farmers, manufacturers and property owners. 

The Federal Water Quality Protection Act will protect our water and our citizens and also prevent federal regulatory overreach by blocking the EPA’s illegal WOTUS rule.

This legislation will send the EPA back to the drawing board to develop a new rule after conducting proper consultation with states, local governments, and small businesses that will be directly affected by the rule. 

If WOTUS is not rewritten, the EPA regulatory expansion could lead to regulation of a huge number of economic activities including highway and road constructions, pipeline projects, transmission line projects, farming, flood control, housing constructions and public works projects.

The EPA claims that the rule would simply implement Supreme Court instructions to clarify the Clean Water Act jurisdiction over bodies of water in the U.S., this proposal goes too far. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that not all bodies of water fall under Clean Water Act regulation. 

The EPA claims they were not required to consult with local governments under Federalism Executive Order – arguing that the rule did not impact them.

The EPA claims that even though it did not comply with the Executive Order, it still reached out to local governments.

The EPA claims that it addressed the concerns of local governments by providing exemptions for public safety ditches and storm water control systems.

None of these claims hold out.

The bottom line is that it is completely unreasonable that our country’s ditches, puddles and other un-navigable waters be subjected to the same regulations as our greatest lakes and rivers.

The WOTUS rule exempts ditches only if a local government can prove that no part of the entire length of a ditch is located in an area where there used to be a stream.

The WOTUS rule exempts storm water management systems only if they were built on dry land.

The WOTUS rule says EPA can rely on historical maps and historic aerial photographs to determine where streams used to be, not where they are now. 

These provisions of the WOTUS rule should strike terror into the heart of every mayor, county commissioner, and manager of a city that was founded before the last century.

With a sweep of the pen, the EPA is trying to take us back to the days of Lewis and Clark.

According to a memo written in April, not even the Corps of Engineers knows how it will determine which ditches are exempt and which are former streams.

Morgantown, West Virginia was founded in 1785.  Wheeling, West Virginia was established in 1795. To go back in time to determine where “streams” used to be would be near impossible.  I don’t want West Virginia cities to have to worry about the status of their municipal infrastructure.

There is no question that with additional permitting and regulatory requirements, implementation of this rule will place a significant burden on West Virginia’s economy, hindering businesses, manufacturing, housing and energy production.

Many in my home state are already struggling to make ends meet.  This new financial and regulatory burden will set them up for failure in an already unstable economic climate, which in large part is caused by harmful regulations the EPA and this Administration have established.

We all want drink clean water and breathe clean air, but we can achieve this without regulating hard-working Americans out of business, and this rule represents broad overreach has the force of law without Congressional approval.

The bottom line is that no federal agency should go around Congress to control what has not been legislated, especially when its actions will harm economic growth.

It is time to provide the clarity that local governments are asking for and send this rule to the dust bin and EPA back to the drawing board.

I urge my colleagues to support the Motion to Proceed to S.  1140.