WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 2023 – U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) this week at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies questioned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan on the Biden Administration’s overreaching, ambiguous, and job-killing Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in addition to their decision to revoke uses of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops.
Senator Britt began her questioning by reiterating her support of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval that passed the Senate in late March and would have overturned the administration’s WOTUS rule. President Biden vetoed the resolution on April 6, 2023.
“When farmers wake up early in the morning to take on their day, from feeding their cows to mending fences to planting to harvesting, they have enough on their plate,” said Senator Britt. “They should not have to worry that ponds, ditches, or mud holes on their private land are federally regulated. The uncertainty of Biden’s WOTUS rule has created and continues to create an unsustainable state of shifting permitting in this country. The cost is hundreds of thousands of dollars for Americans to comply with ever-changing regulations. Alabamians shouldn’t need to pay a lawyer to find out if a ditch on their land is now federally regulated.”
In her line of questioning, Senator Britt pressed Administrator Regan on the EPA’s dubious cost-benefit analysis of the Biden Administration’s WOTUS rule and whether the agency considered the uncertainty that the rule would cause. Administrator Regan claimed that the EPA worked to develop a rule that was legally sound, despite the fact that a federal judge in North Dakota issued a preliminary injunction against the WOTUS rule in 24 states last month, temporarily protecting Alabama from the harmful rule.
The Administrator also alleged that the Biden Administration’s WOTUS rule was intended to “provide the certainty that other administrations have failed to provide.” The new WOTUS rule issued by the EPA repeals the Trump Administration’s 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) – which granted states greater ability to manage their own waters and wetlands and significantly simplified which waters were subject to federal jurisdiction – and changes the definition of WOTUS, further expanding federal authority. As Senator Britt noted, this new rule provides anything but certainty for Alabamians.
Additionally, Senator Britt probed the EPA’s primary economic analysis, which claimed that the WOTUS rule would have zero economic impact, and Administrator Regan’s role in approving that conclusion. Administrator Regan maintained his view that the economic effects of the rule’s implementation would be “positive” and provide “certainty,” to which Senator Britt countered by providing data that states more than 64,000 small businesses, including 165,000 employees, would be harmed by the rule in Alabama alone.
“I am of the belief that our cattlemen, our foresters, and our farmers have tended to their land for generation upon generation, and they actually depend on the fruitfulness of that land to continue to do the job that they love. And I believe that food security is national security, and if we can’t feed or clothe ourselves, nothing else matters,” stated Senator Britt.
Senator Britt went on to point out that partisanship, not science, seems to guide the EPA’s recent rulemaking.
“I’ve noticed a pattern of concern from people coming to my office discussing the EPA,” Senator Britt said. “Many have feared that the EPA is regulating past what science will support or technology that’s available. Just to put it bluntly, Alabamians fear that EPA regulations are more predictive based on the Green New Deal ideology than that of the science and technology before us.”
In Senator Britt’s final line of questioning, the Senator noted Administrator Regan and USDA’s consensus on the 11 safe uses of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used primarily to control insect pests. Despite their agreement, subsequent EPA rulemaking affirmed a ban placed on the pesticide by a Ninth Circuit federal appeals court decision in 2021. Administrator Regan did not contest that science indeed supports the 11 safe uses of chlorpyrifos, however, he continued his response by placing blame on “the letter of the law” and declining to answer why his agency has not appealed the court’s decision. Senator Britt concluded by asking Administrator Regan to reconsider the agency’s decision to not provide evidence of the safe uses of chlorpyrifos to the courts.
A video of Senator Britt’s line of questioning can be viewed here.