Update from Congressman Pete Gallego

It is an understatement to say that water is critical. We need it to live. We use it for business purposes: to water crops, livestock and farms. We use it for personal use: to bathe, to wash dishes and clothes and to cook. We teach our kids to drink eight glasses of water a day.

No one argues that water is important or that water must be conserved. The question is “How?” What is the best way to protect and conserve our water?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently worked on a proposal rule that would have changed definitions under the Clean Water Act to allow the federal government more authority to regulate water. That was a bad idea.

Experts from every corner of the country stepped forward to offer their opinion. For those of us in West Texas – and those people involved in agriculture – the rule was overly broad. The goal was fine – but the method was madness.

When the issue of the proposed EPA rule on water was brought before the U.S. House, I joined with the majority of my colleagues in voting against the proposal. I believe in water conservation, but I also believe in common sense and in common sense solutions.

Last week, even the Small Business Administration (SBA) lodged an objection to the proposed EPA rule and released an analysis of its impact. In fact, the SBA went so far as to ask the EPA to withdraw the proposed rule. It is somewhat rare for one federal agency to object to another agency’s proposed rule. It is even more rare for a federal agency to call out another agency and ask them to withdraw a proposed rule completely. Yet, that’s what the SBA did in a nine-page letter to the EPA.

The EPA’s proposed rule that would redefine the waters of the United States was developed in line with a 1986 regulation that does not reflect the current methods for determining jurisdiction of water. Compared to current practice, the proposed rule would have significantly expanded waters covered by the Clean Water Act; the EPA would arguably now have had authority to regulate streams that run only for awhile after a rain. 

 In drafting their proposal, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers should have compared what they were proposing and the scope of their expansion to the current practice. Instead, they tied their proposal to legislation passed in the mid-1980s, that is long outdated. It was an error in judgment, and they learned about their error the hard way.

The SBA’s analysis confirmed what I’ve long been saying: The agriculture sector would be adversely impacted by the proposed rule. The SBA letter to the EPA and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers outlines the economic impact of the proposed Clean Water Act rule. In their letter, the SBA notes that they are “extremely concerned” about the proposal. 

The SBA has noted in its findings that the 1986 regulation being used as a base for the new rule has been outdated for some 13 years. It also released a factsheet summarizing its comments, which you can find, along with their letter to the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on our website, www.gallego.house.gov.

 As this process continues, I’ll be in contact with the EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the SBA to ensure that everyone “sings from the same hymn book.” Growing up in the desert of West Texas, I know well the importance of water – but I also understand the value of common sense.
For more information on U.S. Rep. Gallego, visit www.gallego.house.gov. Learn more about U.S. Rep. Gallego by liking his Facebook page or by following him on Twitter.
U.S. Representative Pete P. Gallego, D-Alpine, represents the 23rd District of Texas, which includes all or parts of 29 counties in southwest Texas, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso.