Senator Joe Donnelly

Donnelly: Senate Should Act to Clarify Coverage of Clean Water Act, Will Continue Pushing For a Bipartisan, Permanent Solution

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly joined a bipartisan majority of Senators in voting to move forward with considering the bill he helped author and introduce to improve the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The bill was supported by 57 Senators from both sides of the aisle, though Donnelly’s bipartisan bill that he introduced with Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) fell short of the 60-vote threshold required to proceed. Donnelly also spoke on the floor of the United States Senate this afternoon to urge Congress to act and explain how the Federal Water Quality Protection Act would strike a reasonable, bipartisan compromise, offer commonsense principles needed to shape a final WOTUS rule, and require straightforward procedures that the Environmental Protection Agency would need to follow.

Donnelly, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “I am pleased the Federal Water Quality Protection Act received strong bipartisan support in the Senate, but I am disappointed we did not have enough votes to move forward in considering our bill. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, a Hoosier farmer or small business owner in Indiana, or a bureaucrat at the EPA, we all want clean water. Congress should act to clarify the coverage of the Clean Water Act, or the issue will continue to be litigated in the courts for years to come. I am willing to do this work, and I will continue to push for Congress to pass a constructive, permanent solution to the WOTUS rule.” 

To watch Donnelly’s floor speech, click here. 

On the floor of the Senate this afternoon, Donnelly said, “If we are going to ensure that our clean water protections are effective, however, we need to work together and use the feedback from the people who work with the land every day…Countless Hoosier farmers are frustrated that Washington bureaucrats are calling the shots, rather than working together to develop sensible environmental protections…It’s time to roll up our sleeves and provide our ag producers, conservationists, and county and local governments with the regulatory certainty they need to continue efforts to improve water quality. That’s why I was proud to help author and introduce the Federal Water Quality Protection Act with bipartisan group of senators. 

“Most Hoosiers believe we can get more accomplished when we work together, and I have worked across the aisle on what I believe is a very responsible solution. I hope today we’ll continue this debate. It will be difficult, but we have the ability to get this right. If Congress fails to act, our ag community will be faced with continued confusion and uncertainty, and we will not have strengthened our efforts to protect the waters of this country.”                                                                                    

During his speech, Donnelly also shared the perspectives of Hoosier farmers, saying:

“Just listen to farmers like Mike Shuter and Mark Legan. Mike is an Indiana Corn Growers Association member from Frankton, Indiana. He who won the National Corn Growers Association Good Steward Award Winner this year for his sustainable corn farming practices. Mike said, ‘I want clean drinking water for my wife, kids, and grandkids. We work hard to reduce the amount of pesticides, insecticides and fertilizer on our farm. The EPA is going too far by attempting to unilaterally claim jurisdiction over my farmland.’

Mark, a farmer, who received the American Soybean Association’s Conservation Legacy Award in 2013, said: ‘Farmers have been good stewards of the land for generations. We have found ways to produce more while using less pesticides and fertilizers. Waters of the US gives the EPA one-sided jurisdiction over our ditches and fields, makes it more difficult to grow crops, and makes it harder to feed the world.’” 

Earlier this year, Donnelly and Barrasso led a bipartisan group of Senators including Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in introducing the Federal Water Quality Protection Act.  

The bill says that the Administration cannot complete the rule without following (1) the principles and (2) the procedural steps in the bill.

  • In the principles, the bill includes explicit protections for waters that most everyone agrees should be covered, like navigable waters, drinking water sources, and wetlands that filter out pollutants from our rivers and lakes. It also provides commonsense exemptions for isolated ponds and agricultural or roadside ditches—most of which EPA has indicated they never intended to cover.
  • The procedural steps include reviewing economic and small business impact and requiring consultation with stakeholders such as the states and the ag community, including soil and water conservation districts.

Finally, the bill gives a clear deadline, requiring the EPA and Army Corps to complete its rule by December 31, 2016.

The bill is supported by the Indiana Farm Bureau, Simon Property Group, Indiana Corn Growers Association, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Waters Advocacy Coalition, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and many other ag organizations.

About Brian Scott

I play on the radio from 7 am -1 pm weekdays on 98.9 FM WYRZ and WYRZ.org. Follow me on twitter @WYRZBrianScott or e-mail me at brian@wyrz.org.

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