Arizona congressmen and property rights advocates looking for more information from federal officials at a June 2 hearing on the Clean Water Act are likely to be disappointed — no one from the Obama administration is expected to participate.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy was invited to the Phoenix meeting, but the EPA told CQ Roll Call Friday that she won't attend.
"Well, we made the invitation," said Paul Gosar, one of the Arizona Republicans who organized the hearing. He said Secretary of the Army John McHugh, who oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, has also been invited, but the congressman couldn't confirm whether McHugh would be on hand. But the absence of federal officials won't diminish the importance of the hearing, Gosar said. "Do you understand about water in the West?" he asked. "Whiskey's for drinking, water's for fightin' over." The battle began as a dispute over an EPA proposal to would extend federal jurisdiction over water to small creeks, ditches and even dry washes on private land. But Gosar said there's more at stake.
"Water's about everything," he said. "And when the federal government controls water, it controls everything — that's the problem."
Gosar said Arizona Reps. David Schweikert, Matt Salmon and Trent Franks are expected to attend the Monday hearing, and other members, including Arizona Democrats Ron Barber and Ann Kirkpatrick and Texas Republican Lamar Smith will be on hand or will send representatives.
Gosar said the hearing was intended to heighten awareness of the comment period for the proposed rule, and hopefully stop it before it's ever implemented.
If it is, however, Republicans could be looking at legislation to deal with the matter, or looking to the courts to strike down the rule.
In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the definition of "navigable waters" could not be limitless , and Gosar said Friday the proposal from the EPA, once again, was "absolutely" unconstitutional.