U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has long been one of the biggest champions of individual rights in Congress, and his reintroduction of the Defense of Environment and Property Act further solidifies that status. According to a statement from Paul’s office, the legislation “restores common sense to federal water policy by redefining ‘navigable waters,’ excluding ephemeral or intermittent streams from federal jurisdiction, and restraining the power the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers hold over American landowners.”
Essentially, he’s hoping to get government off the backs of farmers and landowners.
Previous iterations of this bill have been brought before lawmakers, namely in 2019, 2015, and 2012. Democrats and environmental groups such as The Wildlife Society have traditionally pushed back against this kind of legislation.
The Defense of Environment and Property Act of 2021:
- Defines “navigable waters” as “navigable-in-fact, or permanent, standing, or continuously flowing bodies of water that form geographical features commonly known as streams, oceans, rivers, and lakes that are connected to waters that are navigable-in-fact”
- Clarifies the jurisdiction of the EPA and Corps of Engineers
- States that “ground water” is state water and not to be considered in asserting Federal jurisdiction
- Prohibits the use of a “significant nexus test”
- Prohibits the EPA and Corps of Engineers from creating new rules defining “navigable waters” or expanding or interpreting the definition of “navigable waters” unless expressly authorized by Congress.
“While some would have us believe we can only protect the environment by giving the federal government more control over Americans’ lives, my bill shows we can act while still respecting Americans’ private property rights and the Constitution’s limits on federal power,” said Paul. “Kentucky’s farmers and coal industry suffered when the Obama administration implemented its burdensome WOTUS rule. Though the Trump administration replaced that rule, we know the new Biden administration will certainly try to return us to an unworkable scenario again. That’s why it’s now more important than ever to make an actual change to the law to fix the problem, and protect our land and invaluable industries.”
U.S. Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) plans to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House. The Senate version of the bill is cosponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“I’m proud to support this legislation by Senator Rand Paul that ensures no bureaucrat in Washington can dictate what our farm families, small businesses, local governments, and citizens can do on their property after a significant rainfall. This bill solidifies the clarity provided by the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule and prevents the EPA from reimposing overly burdensome and unnecessary regulations that would negatively impact our farm families, job creators and communities,” Rouzer said.
You can read the Defense of Environment and Property Act in its entirety here.