U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., offered an amendment during markup of the 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill to prevent an unprecedented expansion of authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The amendment, which passed and therefore became part of the bill as it advances to the House of Representatives, prohibits the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from expanding its jurisdiction to include “non-navigable” waters.

“Now that the House is finally serving its Constitutional role as a check and balance as a legislative body, President Obama is using regulations to force his radical agenda on the American people,” said Rehberg. “For example, changing a word here or there in existing laws and regulations can have a huge impact on the scope of those laws. We saw it when carbon dioxide – that stuff we all exhale – was labeled a ‘harmful pollutant’ and now the president and his congressional allies are trying to remove the word ‘navigable’ from the Clean Water Act to give President Obama control over all water including large puddles, groundwater and irrigation canals. Enough is enough.”

The CWA gives the federal government authority to regulate the “navigable” waters of the United States. But President Obama and his allies in Congress are trying to eliminate the requirement that waterways be navigable. Simply eliminating that word would effectively give the federal government regulatory authority over nearly any body of water in the country.

In December 2010, the Corps sent draft “Clean Water Protection Guidance” to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for regulatory review. This “guidance” describes how the Corps and EPA will identify waters subject to jurisdiction under the CWA. The goal is to substantively change the federal policy on waters subject to its jurisdiction. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice rejected similar attempts by the agency to expand its jurisdiction.

For farmers and ranchers, this means federal involvement in melted snow, mud puddles and prairie potholes. All of these waters would soon fall under the jurisdiction of the Corps and EPA. According to Bill Donald, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) immediate past president, Rehberg’s amendment would prohibit the Corps from using any funds in the bill to develop, adopt, implement or enforce any change to the agency’s jurisdiction.

“NCBA is extremely pleased the committee voted in favor of Rep. Rehberg’s commonsense amendment to defund the CWA guidance," said Donald, who is also a cattleman from Melville, Mont. "Cattlemen and women nationwide thank him for his efforts to protect private property rights from this massive overreach by the federal government. Nobody is better suited to protect our natural resources than hardworking American farmers and ranchers. Unfortunately, the CWA guidance would put all control in the hands of the federal government. Rep. Rehberg’s actions today fight back against an overzealous regulatory bureaucracy whose sole objective is to regulate what you do on your own personal property.”