Navigable Means Navigable
April 13, 2023
Last week, I spoke on the Senate floor to fight a blatant power grab by the federal government. The Senate considered a resolution attempting to block the "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) rule from President Biden's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This rule would change the definition of navigable waters to include things like roadside ditches, puddles on construction sites, and farm ponds.
Think about that – President Biden's EPA and his Army Corps of Engineers apparently believe that drainage ditches, construction site puddles, and farm ponds are "navigable waters." If allowed to stand, this rule would increase costs and uncertainty for farmers and ranchers, property owners, and small businesses. To say this rule defies all common sense is an understatement.
I know that Nebraska is a land-locked state, but it doesn't take a PH.D to understand that the word "navigable" means you can put a boat in the water and go someplace. The Merriam Webster definition of "navigable" is "deep enough and wide enough to afford the passage of ships". If you put a boat in a roadside ditch, you aren't going anywhere. If you put a boat on the construction site puddle, you aren't going anywhere. If you put a boat on a pond, you're not leaving the pond. Nebraska's farmers and ranchers know that what the EPA is proposing just isn't right.
Beyond that, the Biden administration is trying to change the meaning of a law without coming to Congress. The 1972 Clean Water Act says "navigable waters" 50 times. Congress' intent was very clear. The EPA had authority over streams, rivers, and oceans, not temporary water sources. The Biden administration is trying to subvert our laws and the correct response from Congress is to stop it.
President Biden and liberal bureaucrats have absolutely no business regulating this, and I think the President knows it. Why? Because President Biden's EPA and Army Corps of Engineers quietly finalized this new rule on the last working day of the year. It appears that the regulators hoped no one would notice this power grab. Well, we noticed. Nebraska's farmers and ranchers noticed. My colleagues and I noticed and we pushed back hard. Our resolution passed with bipartisan support, sending a message to President Biden that our farmers and ranchers need relief, not regulation. We provided needed oversight and accountability in response to executive overreach. We defended Article I of our U.S. Constitution which says that Congress makes laws, not D.C. bureaucrats.
I recently participated in a telephone townhall with my colleague Senator Deb Fischer where we heard directly from Nebraskans about this issue. One woman told us that she was "tired of fighting" EPA bureaucrats. For years, she had rallied her friends and neighbors to write letters and comments opposing a similar rule proposed by President Obama's EPA in 2015. She was angry that President Biden's EPA refused to listen, forcing her to raise grassroots opposition once again. I fought the Obama rule in 2015 as Governor, and I am fighting the Biden EPA now as Senator.
It is clear that Washington bureaucrats are in desperate need of some Nebraska common sense. I was proud to join a bipartisan group of colleagues in opposing this rule.
Along with Senator Fischer and the rest of my colleagues in the Nebraska delegation, my team and I are here to serve you. Contact my team and I anytime by phone at 202-224-4224, on my website www.ricketts.senate.gov, or via email [email protected]. I am honored to serve our great state and will continue to work to protect the Good Life from Washington overreach.