The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement last month that it will rescind the controversial Waters of the U.S. rule and rewrite the regulations that existed prior to 2015 brought sighs of relief and even some cheers from Farm Bureau at all levels.
The WOTUS rule took effect in 2015, and it granted regulatory control over virtually all waters, assuming a scope of authority Congress has not authorized, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which orchestrated a campaign against the rule that was called “Ditch the Rule.” Shortly after taking effect, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a nationwide stay on the rule.
“The list of waters deemed ‘non-navigable’ is exceptionally narrow – providing that few, if any waters, would fall outside federal control,” AFBF explained. This shift in policy would have meant that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers “can regulate any or all waters found within a state, no matter how small or seemingly unconnected to a federal interest.”
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said his agency’s action was a significant step toward restoring power to the states and providing regulatory certainty to farmers and businesses.
“This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public,” Pruitt said.
The 2015 WOTUS rule was never really about clean water, noted American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.
“It was a federal land grab designed to put a straightjacket on farming and private businesses across this nation. That’s why our federal courts blocked it from going into effect for the past two years,” Duvall said in a statement.
Farm Bureau looks forward to supporting EPA’s new proposal, according to Duvall.
“EPA should ditch this rule once and for all, go back to the drawing board, and write a new rule that protects water quality without trampling the rights of businesses and the states.”
“We want to see the administration move from withdrawing the rule to step two where they actually evaluate options for providing clarity and a rule that would work not only with farmers and ranchers but with states,” said Don Parrish, AFBF senior director of regulatory relations.