EPA RELEASES FINAL "WATERS OF THE U.S." RULE
After what has seemed like an eternity to many who have followed the dispute, the EPA has finally released a nearly 300-page document which details the expansions to its "Waters of the U.S." Rule, or WOTUS. It re-defines which waters - be it rivers, streams, lakes, marshes, and even much smaller water sources – fall under the EPA’s and Army Corp of Engineers’ jurisdiction. The move was supposedly meant to provide more clarity, but it has caused quite the controversy, as many in the agriculture industry are not sure what this expansion actually means for farms and ranches. The American Farm Bureau remains skeptical of its merits and has announced that it will review the document to determine if it is flawed. AFB President Bob Stallman released a statement expressing their doubts. Another vocal critic of the EPA’s move, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts had this to say about the rule:
“The release of the nearly 300-page, finalized WOTUS rule raises more questions than it answers about the expansion of federal jurisdiction under EPA’s Clean Water Act. In March, the Committee held a hearing on the impacts of the WOTUS rule and heard from farmers, ranchers and rural constituencies from Kansas and around the country. The message was clear: this is the wrong approach and the wrong rule for agriculture. I am sorry to say, as expected, the rule is bad news for rural America.”
Meanwhile, environmental advocates have conveyed satisfaction with the rule. Groups such as Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Environment America, and many fishing organizations have backed it because they feel that definitions on navigable waters should be broad in order to protect all upstream sources of major lakes and rivers. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was quick to defend the ruling, stating that it respects agriculture while doing its job of protecting clean water. A lengthy comment period before the final ruling allowed the EPA to take in all sides of the argument in order to make what they felt was a better determination. The ruling was sure to upset groups on one end of the spectrum, as evidenced by the disapproval voiced today. Members of both the Senate and the House, who’ve expressed this displeasure with the rule in the past and present, are considering legislation that would force the EPA to discard the rule in its current form. Read more about the ruling here.