Sen. Johanns: With Obama Term Running Out, Expect 'A Blizzard of Regulations'

By Susan Jones | July 25, 2014 | 9:13 AM EDT

Sen. Mike Johnanns (R-Neb.) (AP File Photo)

( - While President Obama makes his fund-raising rounds, his deputies, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, are hard at work: "I do think what's happening here is the Obama administration recognizes that they only have a couple years left, and I just think you're going to see a blizzard of regulations over the next two years and five months," Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) said on Thursday.

Johanns said he and other Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee met with McCarthy this week to express their frustration with EPA's regulatory agenda -- particularly a proposed rule that would define what the agency can regulate under the Clean Water Act.

Farmers and ranchers are concerned that the proposal would give the federal government jurisdiction over farm ponds, ditches, and other low-lying areas that are often dry for most of the year. (The EPA says it's not true and has published a "ditch the myth" fact sheet to dispel what it calls "misconceptions.")

But Johanns said the proposed regulation "opens the door to costly new permits and fines for our nation's ag producers."

McCarthy knows the clean water rule has problems, but even so, the senator doubts the EPA will reconsider it:

"She acknowledges that in many parts of the rule, there's a lack of clarity. She acknowledges that it's very difficult to take the rule and describe whether lowland farming operation next to a river would be problematic. And so, I -- I do think she hears that. I do think she acknowledges that. I think she's open to that argument. And she does at least verbalize that there's problems with the rule."

But while McCarthy is "very pleasant," she's also "very determined," Johanns said: "I'm just anxious to see how she takes all of this input and gives us a rule that we can work with. Because right at the moment, I think what they're saying is, 'Look, we're going to regulate everything unless we give you an exception.' And that means they're going to regulate everything. And so, I think it's a very serious problem."

"[T]hat's the attitude we've had at EPA since the Obama folks came to office, and I don't see it changing."

At Thursday's news conference, Johanns also announced that he has co-sponsored a resolution expressing disapproval of EPA's proposed clean air rule, which would require each state to meet carbon-reduction targets by 2030. The goal is to shift the United States away from fossil fuels (especially coal-fired plants) to "clean," renewable energy.

"The part of the president's far-reaching environmental regulatory agenda," Johanns said. "The EPA regulation would require existing coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions 30 percent by 2030. The rule amounts to a new national energy tax because it would drive up electricity production costs. And, of course, that will be paid for by the consumer."

He said that's especially troubling for Nebraska, where 60  percent of the state's electricity is powered by coal.

"We all understand and appreciate the need for a clean environment. But the rule fails to address emissions by other countries that pollute more and regulate less. It's as if the administration believes that we're living in a bubble and emissions from places like China and India don't affect this. They do.

"The reality is this rule will have little or no impact on climate change, so we all feel the pain but there really isn't gain. The resolution I co-sponsored expresses our concerns and calls for the EPA to withdraw the burdensome and damaging rule."