THE Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the long-awaited proposed regulation to clarify which waters are subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were quick to call the action EPA overreach, but more important, they encouraged farmers to evaluate the rule and examine how it will affect their operations.
The public now has 90 days to comment on the proposal to clarify the scope of "waters of the United States" regulated under CWA and what can be classified as "other waters" outside of the law's jurisdiction. The agencies also proposed, for the first time, to define the terms "neighboring," "riparian area," "floodplain," "tributary" and "significant nexus."
"This is a power grab, plain and simple," Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R., Texas) said. "The EPA's role is to ensure the federal government and states are working together efficiently to reduce pollution in our nation's waterways. This rule goes far beyond that. EPA is giving itself permission to regulate anything from runoff ditches to stock ponds."
A statement from Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) urged farmers to look over the proposed rule, ask questions and submit comments for the record. "Farm ponds and dry creek beds simply should not be regulated as if they are the Missouri River," he said.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.), ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, added, "Over the past five years, the EPA has demonstrated a willingness to expand its regulatory reach, ignore common sense and, at times, exceed any rational reading of the law. Its actions have increased the regulatory burdens and costs on farmers, ranchers, businesses and other job creators."
Cochran encouraged citizens to carefully review and weigh in on the proposal with EPA to ensure that regulations like this one are based on "sound science, consider economic impacts and demonstrate common sense."
Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D., Ga.) noted that the regulations should be put to three basic tests: (1) be based on a cost/benefit analysis, (2) be based on sound science (3) and be based on plain common sense.
"In this light, I have concerns as to the impact the EPA's new proposed regulations of streams and waterways under the Clean Water Act will have on America's farming communities, businesses and others whose livelihoods depend on available water resources."
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.), chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, said it's another example of the agency "stepping outside of its bounds without thought to the economic consequences of the state."
Ashley McDonald, National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. environmental counsel, said the rule allows the federal EPA to usurp states' authority and ability to be the primary enforcers.
She said it's important for producers to talk to members of Congress as well as submit comments on the rule to detail the harm this proposal will have on their operations, adding that "Congress needs to clarify what waterways of the United States are, not the agency."
Landrieu noted, "Unfortunately, the EPA seems unable or unwilling to find any balance in its decision-making."
She said she will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle "to find a legislative solution to reverse this unfair, unwise and unnecessary decision."