Federal Regulations

Floor Speech

Date: March 29, 2011
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KING of Iowa. I thank the gentleman from Texas, the good judge, who has taught me a few things about all of this. One of those things is sitting on the Judiciary Committee with the gentleman from Texas is, and I haven't learned it very well, but at least I saw the demonstration on how to listen. One of the common denominators of the judges from Texas that we have serving in this Congress is they are all good listeners. They also have heard a lot of stories, some the truth and some not, and they sort that out pretty well.

When I hear Judge Carter come to the floor to tell us how it is, I'm pretty confident that he has listened really carefully and drawn a judgment as to what's the truth and what isn't and boiled it down to the essential facts of Constitution and law and common sense and rendered a verdict. So as I hear this verdict emerging here from the presentation this evening, it calls me to the floor to say thank you to the gentleman from Texas for bringing this up, for all the times that you've come to the floor and sometimes fought a lonely battle that turned out to stand on a good cause.

That's the way good things get started. It's usually one person starting this out and then truth seems to attract more people to a truthful and good and a just cause. I am interested in the gentleman's presentation here and not particularly informed but I came to listen. I would be happy to continue my listening.


Mr. KING of Iowa. I thank the gentleman from Texas.

As I listen to this presentation, a number of things occur to me about what happens when you have the Federal agencies and the Federal agencies are passing rules and regulations that even though there is a broad authority that's granted to those agencies by this Congress, some of the things that they do are beyond the imagination of the people that debated or voted for the bill in the first place.

I look at the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, which are more than 30 years old by now. They've turned into something way beyond the imagination of the people that passed them. The environmentalists that supported them then seemed to be on the edge of what would be considered mainstream. Looking back on that, they would be considered mainstream now. But the problem that we have, and particularly with EPA, would be that the mothers and fathers of the EPA employees that first implemented the rules and regulations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, now their children have picked this up and others from outside, a second generation of people.

They have come into these professions now with--like many young people do--and it's a very good thing to be idealistic and have a sense of a cause--but if you look at a law that was written in 1978, and you apply it with a vision of having a cause that you want to be championed for in 2011, quite often the second generation environmentalist is something entirely different than the first generation environmentalist. And they will interpret the law and write rules beyond the scope of the imagination of those who drafted it and ratified it and the President that signed it.

And so I deal with things back in an environmental perspective, having spent my life's work in the soil conservation business. We have gone out and done some drainage work. Mostly, it's been surface work, permanent practices--terraces, dams, and waterways--and I've envisioned that we would want to send all the raindrops down through the soil profile to purify that water in nature's intended way and keep the soil from washing down stream and ending up in the Gulf of Mexico.

And yet the regulations that come from some of the EPA initiatives are things such as--I can think of protected streams, an issue that came to many States, but it came to Iowa. It was one of the things that drew me into political life. They wrote a rule that said that these waters for these streams, these 115 streams that were designed to be protected for their natural riparian beauty, to quote the rule, some of them were drainage ditches that I had floated and walked those streams all through western Iowa. And some of those streams were just drainage ditches. There was no natural riparian left-over beauty because they had all been changed. But they wanted to preserve them and protect them and call them endangered streams.

And so I began going to the hearings for the rules. And in the rules they wrote that these streams, and according to the geographical boundaries that are defined here, and--``waters hydrologically connected to them'' shall be declared protected streams and shall be under the purview of the Department of Natural Resources, which regulates for the EPA. And I began to ask the question. And here's how language gets stretched. I asked the question, What does ``waters hydrologically connected to'' mean? And the regulators would stand before the public meeting and they would say, We don't know. You're here presenting a rule and you don't know what it means, ``waters hydrologically connected to them.'' No, we don't know. Then take it out. We can't. Why can't you? We can't. How do you know you can't if you don't know what it means? Well, we're here to defend this rule.

So I followed that road show around the State, and they knew when I walked in actually the second meeting who I was and what I was there for. And I asked one question and I didn't get an answer. I just opened my mouth for the second question and they said, Only one question per person. And I said, I drove 2 1/2 hours to get here. It's going to take me 2 1/2 hours to get home. And I've got a lot more than one question. I'm going to stand here until I get them all answered.

Anyway, it came to this. They had decided what amounted to every square foot of the State of Iowa under rules that were ``slipperly'' deceptive. And it was the language that said ``waters hydrologically connected to.'' I know that moist soil will have in it a water content of 25, 28, 30 percent and still be fairly stable. So that would regulate us all the way up to the kitchen sink. Two water molecules touching each other are hydrologically connected. And that's one of the things that environmental extremists sought to impose upon us in the State that gave them all kinds of latitude.

And another one would be when they decided to declare wetlands by aerial photographs. And the aerial photographers would look down, take a shot, and if there were a certain amount of vegetation growing in the field, they declared it to be a wetland that otherwise would have been farmed.

And so there could be somebody missed with the herbicide on top of the hill and the foxtail would grow. It would show up in an aerial photograph. The Corps of Engineers would declare that to be a wetland on the top of the hill where water drained completely away. This is how government regulation gets out of hand and starts to take over the property rights of the individuals who have a right to use that property in a responsible way as a means of an income to produce crops, even if it happens to be cotton, which we don't have much of in my district.

So I just think here that this Congress should do this: we should bring every rule before this Congress for an affirmative vote before it can have the force and effect of law. We can do it en bloc. Bring them all in together. We need to give any Member an opportunity to divide a rule out and force a separate vote on it, and we need to give Members the opportunity to amend them.

And the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. Davis) has a bill that addresses this in this fashion. It's not as broad in scope as I would go, but it is a very, very good start on getting this Congress under control and the regulators under control and giving Congress the authority that's vested in us in the Constitution rather than subcontracting it off to the agencies and letting them run this government at will.

So I appreciate the gentleman from Texas giving me an opportunity to vent myself on these frustrating issues. I appreciate your leadership.