Lankford blames WOTUS fight on Biden’s climate-change extremism

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Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford is among those doubling down in the fight against the Biden administration’s new definition of WOTUS rules. And he’s blaming the fight on the President’s climate-change extremism.

He joined Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, Republican from West Virginia in introducing a formal challenge to the rule through a Congressional Review Act joint resolution of disapproval.

The resolution comes after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers announced a new rule in December 2022 repealing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), changing the definition of Waters of the United States in a way that will expand federal regulatory authority.

“President Biden is replacing a clear and predictable Clean Water Act rule with a complex and overreaching Waters of the US rule, which will cost Oklahomans millions of dollars in litigation and plenty of frustration,” said Lankford.

The Senator charged that Biden’s extreme WOTUS rule is forcing Oklahoma farmers, ranchers and developers to spend time and money trying to figure out what the federal government will let them do on their own land.

“People want the government to set up a fair rule and then leave it alone, but instead Oklahomans are once again forced to pay for Biden’s climate-change extremism. This is ridiculous, and we’re pushing to stop it.”

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“With its overreaching navigable waters rule, the Biden administration upended regulatory certainty and placed unnecessary burdens directly on millions of Americans,” Capito said. “This Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval will give every member of Congress the chance to stand with farmers, ranchers, landowners, and builders, and protect future transportation, infrastructure, and energy projects of all kinds in their states.”

In 2015, the Obama Administration finalized a rule that expanded the definition of WOTUS, creating confusion and burdensome red tape, especially for Oklahoma’s agriculture, construction, and energy industries.  The Trump Administration released a proposed rule to replace the 2015 WOTUS rule with a new one that provided much-needed predictability and certainty for farmers by establishing clear and reasonable definitions of what qualifies as a “water of the United States.” The NWPR was finalized in 2020.

On day one of his Administration, President Biden signed an executive order to begin the process of rolling back the Trump Administration’s NWPR. In December 2022, the EPA issued a new rule repealing the NWPR and changing the definition of WOTUS in a way that will expand federal regulatory authority.

Lankford and his colleagues immediately responded by sending a letter with the entire Senate Republican Conference to urge the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers to suspend the pending rulemaking to redefine the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), specifically “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), until the US Supreme Court completes its consideration of Sackett v. EPA, a case that is expected to have major implications on CWA scope and enforcement.