Republicans and Democrats on Thursday called on the Environmental Protection Agency to show "regulatory humility," during a hearing in which both sides beat up the agency for three hours over various rules that create nightmares for farmers and businesses.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was criticized for her agency's Clean Power Plan, Waters of the United States and Renewable Fuel Standard rules, along with a multitude of local issues. She defended those regulations and others as an attempt to "do what Congress wants us to do.
But members of Congress at the committee on Thursday seemed to want the EPA to do almost anything other than what it's doing right now.
Rep. Tim Waltz, D-Minn., said farmers and other people impacted by EPA regulations feel like they're being attacked by the agency. He said the perception that the agency is willing to work with farmers and private groups is gone and that the EPA lacks "regulatory humility."
"There's a bit of bunker mentality of 'these things keep coming down and [they're] not asking us,'" he said.
Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., said he hasn't seen much regulatory humility during his time in Congress.
"I've not seen that displayed," he said. "If you look back, you have 32 states that have filed a lawsuit over WOTUS, both the House and Senate, who the majority of members regardless of which party, think the rule is not being implemented correctly. You have courts that are saying it's not being implemented correctly."
"And, what I see is the EPA sticking a flag in and saying 'We're right and the rest of America is wrong,'" he added.
Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., said the EPA has "a gigantic tone problem." She said every time she's back in her district she goes on tours of farms in order to meet with her constituents and hear their concerns.
"I came away from this agricultural tour really having an understanding, in my mind, what I heard from my farmers is that today's EPA has become a punitive, revenue generator for big government," she said.
The Waters of the United States rule, which the EPA says is meant to clarify past Supreme Court rulings that complicated what waters are subject to federal regulations, was the regulation that was most directly under assault by committee members.
Ranchers, farmers and states argue it gives the federal agency unprecedented authority over drainage ditches and nearly anything else that can contain water.
"You act like you're doing us a favor, but we have 31 states and many agricultural organizations filing a lawsuit against you, so don't you think there ought to be reason for pause?" asked Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn. "You don't think maybe we ought to scrap this and go back to the drawing board and do it right?"
He added, "America is frustrated right now with big government. That's the number one issue with Americans, is the overreach of federal agencies."