Feb 13, 2023Hearing raises concerns about impact of WOTUS rule
A congressional hearing on the effects of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule drew criticism of the rule, with speakers testifying that it imposes unnecessary government overreach and creates regulatory barriers.
The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting on Feb. 8 drew comments from producers, academics and industry leaders. Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO, the committee chair, said farmers need clarity about the rule, which goes into effect March 23.
“Person after person in my district calls and says, ‘What do I do? I’m being sued over this or I’m being sued over that. I can’t build a pond. I can’t build any of my retainment structures,’ whatever the case may be,” Graves said.
Garett Hawkins, Missouri Farm Bureau president, discussed the rule’s impact on everyday farming and ranching practices and the costs of implementing the rule, which he said “threatens to impede farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to provide safe, affordable, and abundant food, fuel, and fiber to the citizens of this nation and the world. Their concerns are not hyperbole, nor are they isolated occurrences.”
The hearing followed the introduction of a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act for the WOTUS rule by Graves and David Rouzer, R-NC, Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee chair, alongside nearly 150 congressional colleagues.
The revised WOTUS definition was announced on Dec. 30, 2022, and published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18. Developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army, the rule seeks to “establish a clear and reasonable definition of the ‘waters of the United States’ and reduces the uncertainty from constantly changing regulatory definitions that has harmed communities and our nation’s waters,” according to the EPA’s website.
The rule restores water protections put in place prior to 2015 under the Clean Water Act for traditional navigable waters, territorial seas, and interstate waters, as well as upstream water resources that affect those waters.
“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act 50 years ago, it recognized that protecting our waters is essential to ensuring healthy communities and a thriving economy,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a news release. “Following extensive stakeholder engagement, and building on what we’ve learned from previous rules, EPA is working to deliver a durable definition of WOTUS that safeguards our nation’s waters, strengthens economic opportunity, and protects people’s health while providing greater certainty for farmers, ranchers and landowners.”
— National Potato Council