WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul yesterday reintroduced the Defense of Environment and Property Act of 2015. This legislation will bring common sense back to federal water policy by redefining “navigable waters,” exclude ephemeral or intermittent streams from federal jurisdiction, and restrain the powers that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers hold over American landowners.
“Every year, thousands of property owners across America fall victim to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineer’s bullying tactics. I firmly believe it is the landowners’ Constitutional rights to do what they please with their own property. The time has come to bring common sense back to the federal jurisdiction over navigable waters and place necessary limitations on out-of-control government agencies,” Sen. Paul said.
Click HERE to read the Defense of Environment and Property Act of 2015 in its entirety.
SECTION 1. The Defense of Environment and Property Act of 2015
SECTION 2. Navigable Waters
Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to redefine “navigable waters” in line with the Scalia majority opinion in Rapanos v. United States. Specifically, the term is defined to authorize federal regulation of (1) navigable-in-fact waters (e.g. waters that actually support a boat) and (2) relatively permanent water bodies commonly known as streams, oceans, rivers and lakes connected to navigable-in-fact waters. Excluded from regulation are waters that lack a continuous surface water connection to navigable waters, including intermittent or ephemeral streams. Clarifies that groundwater should be treated as state water and should not be used in determining federal jurisdiction over other waters. The use of the “significant nexus” test is prohibited. Clarifies that this new definition does not materially change any existing statutory exemptions from permit requirements (such as normal farming, maintenance of serviceable dikes and dams, and construction of irrigation ditches; NPDES exemptions for agricultural return flows and storm water runoff from oil, gas and mining operations also remain in place).
SECTION 3. Applicability of Agency Regulations and Guidance
Retracts the “Final Rule for Regulatory Program of the Corps of Engineers” (51 Fed. Reg. 41206); the proposed EPA rule entitled “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Clean Water Act Regulatory Definition of ‘Waters of the United States'” (68 Fed. Reg. 1991); the guidance document entitled “Clean Water Act Jurisdiction Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision in Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. United States.” Further prohibits the EPA or Army Corps from promulgating rules or issuing any guidance that expands or interprets the definition of navigable waters or waters of the United States unless expressly authorized by Congress.
SECTION 4. State Regulation of Water
Clarifies that this bill does not impact the ability of States to assert regulatory authority over their waters.
SECTION 5. Consent for Entry by Federal Representatives
Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify that a federal official may only enter private property to collect information about navigable waters (as defined) if the owner of that property has a) consented to that entry in writing; b) is notified regarding the date of entry; c) given access to any data collected. The landowner must also have the option of being present at the time the data collection is carried out.
SECTION 6. Compensation for Regulatory Taking
States that, if federal regulation relating to navigable waters diminishes the fair market value or economic viability of the property (as determined by an independent appraiser), the Federal agency issuing the regulation then owns the property owner twice the value of the loss. The payment must come from the administrative budget of the agency, and the federal regulation shall have no force or effect upon the landowner until the landowner has been compensated.