Friday, June 12, 2015

Farm Bureau says latest EPA water rule is more expansive than agency's original proposal

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest lobby for farmers and ranchers, said Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency's latest rule defining "waters of the United States" subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act are even worse than the original proposal, Timothy Cama reports for The Hill. The Farm Bureau said "the agency did not properly respond to criticisms from farmers."

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said in a statement, “Despite months of comments and innumerable complaints, the waters-of-the-U.S. proposal is even worse than before. Our analysis shows yet again how unwise, extreme and unlawful this rule is."

The rule was written, Cama notes, "to ensure that small streams, ponds, wetlands and other important waterways can be regulated under the Clean Water Act, which requires permits for actions the harm or pollute water, the Obama administration said." But critics feared "that farmers would be subject to permitting requirements and restrictions for common agricultural practices on their land like filling ditches and spraying fertilizer."

"The Farm Bureau said the EPA made its rule even more broad than what it put out for public comment in March 2014, echoing a criticism that congressional Republicans have made since the May 27 announcement of the final rule," Cama writes. "Specifically, the Farm Bureau said that the EPA’s definition of a tributary was broadened, and it now requires only 'physical indicators of a bed and banks and ordinary high water mark.' This means that ditches, wet land near streams, isolated water and other areas are subject to the rule, the Farm Bureau argued." (Read more)

Stallman claimed that "EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers can now use remote desktop tools to establish the presence of a tributary, without a human ever setting eyes on the feature," Daniel Enoch reports for Agri-Pulse. Farm Bureau's analysis of the rule said, “Thus, land features may be deemed to be tributaries (regulated immediately under the rule), even if they are invisible to the landowner and even if they no longer exist on the landscape. So much for clarity!”

The Farm Bureau, which contested facts it said EPA used to convince opponents of the rule that it won't do them any harm, "disputed EPA claims that a Clean Water Act permit is only needed if a protected water is going to be polluted or destroyed; that the rule does not change exemptions for agriculture or add any permitting requirements for farmers; or that the rule does not regulate most ditches," Enoch writes.

EPA declined to comment but says on its website, "The rule does not protect any new types of waters, regulate most ditches, apply to groundwater, create any new permitting requirements for agriculture, or address land use or private property rights."

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