Montana delegates vote against Waters of the U.S. rule

Montana’s delegates have voted for a bipartisan bill which would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule.

Congressman Ryan Zinke is calling WOTUS an “unconstitutional abuse of executive power.” Although not delving into specific flaws, Zinke fears that WOTUS will harm the economy by negatively impacting farmers, ranchers and builders in the Big Sky state.

Senator Steve Daines addressed more specific concerns on WOTUS in November 2015.

He cited the hefty bill that comes with the Act, an estimated $158 million and $465 million a year in indirect costs. For farmers, he says, WOTUS could results in fees for assessments and permits when working areas like gullies and ditches.

The terminology here is something that Nebraska Cattlemen have voiced concern over. Language like “ditches” are broad they said, and can lack clarity for farmers and ranchers. Terms mentioned in WOTUS in general they found arbitrary, asking for them to be removed.

Daines also said in his speech that WOTUS gives the EPA unprecedented power to regulate water and land in Montana, effectively taking away control from farmers and ranchers.

Championed by the EPA and the U.S. Department of the Army, WOTUS would redefine the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act. According to the EPA the measure is to ensure public health, protect aquatic resources and increase the CWA’s predictability and consistency through clarification of water bodies protected.

The EPA and Corps state that their goal is to clarifying their jurisdiction, not to expand it. In changing the definition of "waters of the United States" this may included new bodies of water, while excluding currently regulated one. 

Montana Senator Jon Tester sides with the act, saying "“WOTUS is written with the intention of keeping our water clean, but it’s critically important that EPA implement the rule correctly.  Clean water is too vital to Montana’s economy and to the health of our communities to get this wrong.”

The CWA gives the government jurisdiction over navigable bodies of water. WOTUS looks to clear up terminology and what constitutes as navigable water.

In 2015 a U.S. District Court judge in North Dakota issued a temporary injunction against WOTUS. Montana is one of 13 states that will receive this injunction.

As of Jan. 13, both the House and Senate have passed a joint resolution to combat the EPA's act.

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