The latest developments for the EPA and the Clean Water Act

by Cate Moore on June 16, 2015

In October of last year, CCFA joined the Farm Bureau and several other rural voices in opposing the EPA’s latest attempt to redefine the scope of the Clean Water Act to the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), which would include just about every mud puddle and golf course water trap in America. We hope you, our members, also took the opportunity to add your voices to this issue.
More than a million comments were submitted.  There is controversy over which of these comments were “unique, substantive” comments; AFBF regulatory specialist Don Parrish said more than 20,000 unique, substantive comments were delivered
to the agency—about 2 percent of the total number of comments to be submitted — and more than two-thirds of the comments opposed the regulation.  So, how much effect have these comments had?
The EPA is not standing down voluntarily.  It’s taken Congressional pressure to force it to heed the word of the people.
In February, the EPA withdrew its interpretive rule defining “normal farming practices” for purposes of the Clean Water Act as required by Congress in the 2015 Omnibus spending bill passed in December.  This was a minor victory at best, since they did not step down on their redefinition of the scope of the waters supposedly under their jurisdiction.
After hearing testimony from farmers and ranchers, Congress introduce legislation (Senate bill 1140 – Federal Water Quality Protection Act, House bill 1732 – Regulatory Integrity  Protection Act of 2015) requiring the EPA to withdraw its currently proposed rule and redraft it.   The Farm Bureau has thrown its support behind both bills, but we can’t expect much help from our local legislators.  Anna Eshoo’s response to a letter (Support HR 1732 – Stop Harmful Expansion of Clean Water Act) asking for support for H-1732 demonstrated her complete disconnection with the needs of her rural constituents (Message From Rep. Anna G. Eshoo re HR 1732).
The Obama administration has promised to veto these bills, and in the meantime, the EPA has enacted the rule.  It’s going to be an expensive mess.  Farm Bureau analysts note that “the agencies won’t even define dry land, so if they won’t define dry land
within this rule, how do they define where their jurisdiction stops and starts? It really is breathtaking how they are trying to hide what they are doing here in a lot of jargon, as well as the ability to not really define things that are going to be really important to keep farmers out of trouble”.
Stay posted on developments at the Farm Bureau website: ditchtherule.fb.org.

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