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Congresswoman Mary Miller Introduces the House Companion Bill to the Define WOTUS Act of 2021 to Protect Farmers and Ranchers from Biden’s EPA

July 22, 2021

WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Mary Miller (IL-15) introduced the House companion bill to Senator Mike Braun's (R-IN) Define WOTUS Act of 2021. This bill was introduced by Congresswoman Miller to prevent President Biden’s radical cabinet secretaries from telling farmers and ranchers how to use and regulate their own land.

During the Obama Administration, the definition of “Waters of the United States” was altered, which trampled on the property rights of farmers, ranchers, and landowners in rural America. 

President Trump’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule provided long-overdue certainty and clarity for landowners affected by the scope of WOTUS’s jurisdiction.

"The Obama Administration vastly expanded the scope and power of the federal government in order to regulate and punish rural America,” Miller said. "This bill keeps unelected Washington bureaucrats off our farms and sends a clear message to the radical leftists in the Biden Administration that we will not allow them to trample on our rights.”  

The Define WOTUS Act of 2021 codifies a congressionally-mandated definition. This will ensure consistency in the rule, since the Biden Administration has announced they plan to revisit the WOTUS rule, likely overturning the Trump rule and adopting the overburdensome Obama-era rule.

“Regulations for what falls under ‘Waters of the U.S.’ have ping-ponged back and forth for years,” said Senator Braun. “Farmers and families need a reasonable, practical definition for WOTUS, and that’s why I’m glad to hear Representative Mary Miller is taking up the fight in the House to complement the Define WOTUS Act in the Senate."

If passed, the bill would reassert Congressional responsibility to define this important term. The definition in the Define WOTUS Act also makes substantial improvements over various administrative attempts to define the term by clearly outlining what is, and is not, a federally regulated waterway.

In the initial 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA), Congress failed to define the term “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), even though the phrase is critical to federal implementation of the CWA.  

The term has been subject to much litigation, including a few Supreme Court cases. In 2015, the Obama Administration finalized a rulemaking to define WOTUS through its so-called “Clean Water Rule.” The rule defined WOTUS so broadly that many Americans had trouble interpreting the definition. It was difficult to tell what was or was not a federal waterway without an official determination by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official, resulting in an unreasonable regulatory burden on American farmers, businesses, and families.

Congress attempted to repeal the Obama rule through a disapproval resolution sponsored by Senator Joni Ernst. The resolution passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by President Obama.   

On February 28, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to revise or rescind the Obama-era rule. EPA and the Corps are carrying out Executive Order 13778 through a “two-step process” that involves repealing the Obama-era rule, and then replacing it with a Trump Administration rule. EPA has not yet finalized either rule, highlighting that the real failure has been Congress’s inability to define WOTUS.