Jun 21, 2018
Regulatory agencies, courts move to redefine WOTUS

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) took another step in redefining the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) definition. In a release, the National Potato Council said under the previous administration’s definition, WOTUS could have enabled a web of regulatory actions with negative economic consequences for agriculture.

On June 15, EPA and the Corps sent a proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget that will begin the interagency review process on a redefined WOTUS. Once that step is complete, the proposed rule will be released for public comment.

This process is part of the administration’s regulatory reform agenda as WOTUS is one of the most visible regulatory reform issues affecting agriculture over the past few years.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia recently granted a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of WOTUS. Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said in a news release that he “applauds” legal action to block enforcement of the “burdensome” WOTUS rule.

“This rule was a blatant overreach of the federal government,” Commissioner Black said. “We are pleased that the courts clearly saw the irreparable harm this frontal assault on private property rights could cause our farmers.”

The federal court sided with Georgia and 10 other states, agreeing that the new rule from the Corps and EPA unlawfully expands the federal government’s regulatory reach over local streams, lands and farms.

The other states involved in the recent injunction include Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Georgia injunction is the second time a federal court has ruled against WOTUS, with an injunction in 2015 preventing the rule from being implemented in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. In total, the two court rulings protect 24 states from WOTUS implementation.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said while the ruling was a clear validation of many concerns that Farm Bureau has expressed about the rule, more work needs to be done.

“The 2015 rule is now stayed in a total of 24 states,” he said. “The illegal rule is overbroad, vague and confusing, and it goes far beyond the intent of Congress when it passed the Clean Water Act. This overreach and confusion has created a situation where farmers and ranchers would need to hire a team of lawyers and consultants to perform many ordinary farming practices on their land. EPA should ditch this rule for good and replace it with a proposal that offers both clean water and clear rules — one that is easy to interpret and allows farmers and ranchers to continue to feed, clothe and fuel our nation.”


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