The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized a rule in June 2015 that significantly expanded the definition of “waters of the United States,” also known as “navigable waters,” under the Clean Water Act. EPA failed to listen to concerned farmers, ranchers and business owners around the country in crafting its new rule, vastly expanding EPA’s and the Corps’ regulatory authority beyond the limits approved by Congress and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The rule was challenged in court by dozens of state, municipal, industry and environmental organizations. It was quickly blocked by the federal courts based on its legal flaws and the harm it threatened to cause, and was never implemented nationwide. Farm Bureau supports the recent EPA proposal to rescind this dangerous and unlawful rule.
The public comment period is now open, and we need YOU, Farm Bureau members of Kansas, to tell the EPA to support the repeal of the 2015 WOTUS rule.
Please submit comments before Sept. 27, 2017 by going here.
The WOTUS rule grants the federal government regulatory control over virtually any waters – and many land areas that only temporarily hold water – assuming a scope of authority Congress never authorized. The rule effectively eliminates any constraints the term “navigable” previously imposed on the Corps’ and EPA’s CWA jurisdiction. Few, if any, waters would fall outside of federal control. The rule’s overbroad and vague terms would allow EPA and the Corps to regulate any or all waters found within a state, no matter how small or seemingly unconnected to true “navigable waters.” The rule is breathtaking in its unlawful attempt to supersede state and municipal authority.
The 2015 WOTUS rule provides none of the clarity and certainty it promised. Instead, it creates confusion and risk by giving the agencies almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects, including common farm ditches, ephemeral drainages, agricultural ponds and isolated wetlands found in and near farms and ranches across the nation.
The rule defines terms such as “tributary” and “adjacent” in ways that make it impossible for farmers and ranchers to know whether the specific ditches, ephemeral drains or low areas on their land will be deemed “waters of the U.S.” But these definitions are broad enough to give regulators (and citizen plaintiffs) plenty of room to assert that such areas are subject to CWA regulation. The rule gives the agencies sweeping new authority to regulate land use, which they may exercise at will, or at the whim of a citizen plaintiff.
Farm Bureau Policy
Farm Bureau has significant concerns with the 2015 rule. It expands federal jurisdiction far beyond what was authorized by Congress, resulting in the imposition of burdensome requirements and tremendous uncertainty for farmers and ranchers.
Farm Bureau supports the EPA and Corps of Engineers’ proposal to withdraw the 2015 rule. We also urge the agencies to develop a new rule that will provide a clear and reasonable definition of “waters of the U.S.” within the limits set by Congress.