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Wyoming's Congressional Delegation Pleased By EPA Rollbacks…Others Are Concerned

Bob Beck

The EPA’s announcement that it’s rolling back an Obama-era rule to expand regulations on the nation’s waters and streams is being cheered by Wyoming lawmakers who now are offering input on how to rewrite it.

Farmers and ranchers across Wyoming were up in arms over the regulation commonly referred to as the Waters of the U.S. rule. It would have expanded the scope of what the EPA and other federal agencies regulate, which had many fearing the government would be monitoring dry stream beds and puddles. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso praised the move.

“You know in the past the federal government has tried to take over all the water. I think we do a great job in Wyoming, in protecting our waters, in protecting our environment and doing it in a way that shows proper respect for our environment as well as allows for multiple uses of the land. That’s the history of Wyoming: We want clean air, we want clean water, we want clean land. And we do it very well.”

But now the agency has to come up with a new rule to replace the Obama-era one. As Barrasso hopped on one of the trains underneath the Capitol, he explained he wants to make sure the rule remains laser focused.

“There is a federal role and it has to do with truly navigable waters. And the people of Wyoming know what we mean when we talk about navigable waters. But this effort previously by the Obama administration to take control over all waters was really harmful to Wyoming – to agriculture, but also to other folks who use the land.”


I don't think frankly that you need an EPA period. When you've got the states themselves and 98 percent of the environmental regulation being done effectively at the state level that's where it ought to be. - Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney

But now we’re all in a waiting period to see what the EPA will offer as a replacement rule. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney said that should be easy.

“Well, I’d like to see them at a minimum go back to the notion of navigable waterways and not have the kind of expansive definition we saw in the last administration.”

But Democrats say the EPA and many in the public are overreacting. Arizona’s Raul Grijalva is the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee.

“They’re making it a conspiracy which it isn’t and unwinding it also effects management, protective issues that are involved.”

Democrats say unwinding the rule is a part of a dangerous trend during the Trump-era. After already pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the administration also announced this week it’s barring some scientists from serving the EPA in an advisory capacity if they received EPA funded grants during their careers. Grijalva said it’s a dangerous trend.

“It goes against science. It continues that campaign to effectively limit and marginalize science and fact in a department that relies on science and fact to protect the American public and their public health. It is an industry giveaway and the people that are replacing them with are all coming from industry.”

While EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt enacted the new rule for scientists no such prohibition came on people involved in energy or other industries who he wants to put on the advisory panel. Cheney lauds the move by Pruitt.

“I think now we’ve got a huge amount of redundant regulation that’s unnecessary, so I’m very optimistic and heartened by the steps we’ve seen Pruitt begin to take across the board.”

Cheney goes farther than Pruitt and sides with about seven House Republicans who want to completely disband the EPA.

"I don’t think frankly that you need an EPA period. When you've got the states themselves and 98 percent of the environmental regulation being done effectively at the state level that's where it ought to be."


Rank and file Republicans know their party leaders would never bring a bill to the floor to disband the EPA, but Democrats say they’ve been concerned with Pruitt because the former Oklahoma attorney general was known for suing the agency he now runs. Virginia Democrat Don Beyer said Pruitt seems to be dismantling the agency from within.

“I think it was the worst case of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. It’s very much in his economic interest, the economic interest of the state he represented to try to kill anything related to climate change and just in general to deregulate our protection of the environment. And, unfortunately, he’s in the best position to do it.”

But Cheney and Republicans brush aside the criticisms from the minority party on everything from the Waters of the U.S. rule to pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“I’m sure the Democrats don’t like what’s happening but the Democrats lost the election for a reason. And they lost because people in states like Wyoming are absolutely fed up with an EPA that was not regulating the environment, not doing things to improve the environment but was targeted on killing key industries like the fossil fuel and the coal industry, so I feel really good about the fact we’ve taken important steps moving away from that,” said Cheney.

Based on Capitol Hill, Matt Laslo is a reporter who has been covering campaigns and every aspect of federal policy since 2006. While he has filed stories for NPR and more than 40 of its affiliates, he has also written for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Guardian, The Omaha World-Herald, VICE News and Washingtonian Magazine.

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