Waters Advocacy Coalition (WAC) Statement on the Proposed New Water Rule

CONTACT: Amos Snead, Snead@S3PublicAffairs.com

Washington, DC — Today, the Waters Advocacy Coalition released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army announced the proposed new water rule:

“Today’s release of a new water rule is an encouraging next step in the decades-long push for a WOTUS definition that empowers communities to protect their own water resources while providing regulatory clarity for our nation’s farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and landowners,” said coalition spokesman Amos Snead. “While the courts stepped in and almost immediately halted implementation of the illegal 2015 WOTUS rule, the specter of such an onerous, overreaching federal regulation has weighed heavily on states, local governments, and the regulated community across the country.

“In fact, a majority of states across the country spoke out against the old WOTUS rule, saying it would have buried them in paperwork, strained state budgets and ultimately not made any improvements to efforts to maintain water quality. In contrast, today’s proposal takes a more balanced approach to protecting our nation’s waterways by promoting states’ ability to protect their water resources, laying out clear federal guidelines for surface water protection, and providing Americans long overdue regulatory certainty.

“The Waters Advocacy Coalition appreciates the efforts of the EPA and the Army Corps to solicit feedback prior to drafting this new proposal and applauds the agencies’ commitment to continued engagement with local communities and affected stakeholders to craft a workable WOTUS definition. We look forward to implementation of a commonsense new water rule that provides for clean water and clear rules.”

For more information, please visit https://watersadvocacy.org

Click here to download this press release in PDF format.

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DTN THE PROGRESSIVE FARMER: Texas Court Asked to Vacate 2015 WOTUS

Three states, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation, asked a federal court in Texas on Thursday to vacate the 2015 waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule in the latest in a long series of court actions.
 
In separate motions filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Galveston, the states of Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) asked the court to throw out the rule for a number of reasons.
 
AFBF has been aggressively pursuing legal avenues to kill the 2015 rule with motions filed over the past week in federal courts in both Texas and Georgia.
 
Currently, the rule is in effect in 22 states and on hold in 28 states, as a result of a long legal battle. The EPA continues to draft rules to repeal the 2015 rule and replace it by September 2019.
 
The agency had finalized a rule to delay the implementation of the 2015 rule to 2020, but that has since been struck down by another court.
 
The AFBF argues the EPA violated the Administrative Procedures Act by not allowing the public to comment on the rule “before making substantive changes” before it was finalized.
 
“It also requires the agency to make available the evidence on which the proposed rule is based,” AFBF said in its motion. “The agencies flouted both requirements, failing to reopen the comment period after making important changes to the proposed rule, and withholding a key scientific report until after the initial comment period closed.”
 
The group argues the rule was “arbitrary and contrary to law,” violates the Constitution and that “by regulating dry, isolated land features that are not channels of interstate commerce and do not substantially affect interstate commerce, the rule exceeds the agencies’ power under the Commerce Clause and usurps state authority under the Constitution’s federalist structure.”
 
The states ask the court to vacate the rule based on a number of constitutional issues.

Continue reading at Texas Court Asked to Vacate 2015 WOTUS…

Photo Credit: Chris Clayton

FEEDSTUFFS: WOTUS challenges continue in Texas, Georgia

A 2015 rule that expands the federal government’s control over private land nationwide should be vacated in its entirety, attorneys argued in papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
 
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and a broad coalition of business groups, along with the state of Texas and others, are suing to do away with the 2015 “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.
 
Plaintiffs say the rule is illegal for a host of reasons, including that it disregards statutory and Supreme Court requirements that federally regulated “waters” be at least closely connected to “navigable” water bodies. The 2015 rule instead regulates “vast tracts of the United States, including millions of miles of manmade ditches and municipal stormwater systems, dry desert washes and arroyos in the arid West and virtually all of the water-rich Southeast,” AFBF said.
 
“Because the rule violates the Constitution, the Clean Water Act and the Supreme Court’s precedents and is arbitrary and capricious under the APA [Administrative Procedures Act] — and in light of the devastating consequences that it would have on the economy — the rule must be vacated,” the filing noted.

Continue reading at Feedstuffs…

INSIDE EPA: Updated EPA Agenda Targets March For Finalizing Obama Rule Rollbacks

Most prominent in EPA’s water agenda are its newly updated timelines for EPA and the Corps’ joint rules to repeal and replace Obama-era standards for determining which waterbodies are subject to the CWA.
 
The repeal, first proposed in 2017 and followed by a “supplemental” comment period in June, is now targeted for final action in March — a four-month delay from the December deadline floated in the spring agenda.
 
Meanwhile, the agency is sticking to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s Oct. 2 statement that he is aiming to propose a replacement rule within 30 days of Oct. 2, with the agenda listing that proposal for release by the end of October, and final action in September 2019.

Continue reading at Inside EPA…

THE JOURNAL GAZETTE: Banks touts achievements, economy during Rotary appearance

Banks said his congressional accomplishments include being named one of three Republican finalists in the House and Senate for a constituent service award; being among 13 freshman lawmakers to have a bill signed into law; helping lead efforts to suspend the medical device tax; having a hangar at Fort Wayne’s Smith Field designated this month as the National Airmail Museum; and becoming the first member of Congress from the 3rd District appointed to the House Armed Services Committee.
 
He cited his work on behalf of military veterans, including strengthening the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Crisis Line; being named chairman of a new House subcommittee overseeing the modernization of VA’s electronic medical records; and helping Shepherd’s House, a Fort Wayne shelter for homeless veterans, secure federal funding after it had been discontinued. He also said he has pressed VA to pay bills owed to medical device companies.
 
Banks said he assisted in the restoration of federal funding for a flood mitigation program in Decatur and added a provision to the House farm bill that would repeal the Waters of the United States rule, a clean-water regulation opposed by farmers and homebuilders.

Continue reading at The Journal Gazette…

DTN THE PROGRESSIVE FARMER: WOTUS Merits Argued in Georgia Court

The future of the 2015 waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule may be decided in a district court in Georgia, as the American Farm Bureau Federation and supporters of the Obama-era rule have asked a court there to decide on its merits.
 
For the past three years, the WOTUS rule has been hung up by dozens of lawsuits and legal procedures across the country, but now a court has been asked to rule on the constitutionality of WOTUS.
 
This summer, the AFBF filed a motion for summary judgement, asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia to invalidate the rule, claiming it was unconstitutional and violated the administrative procedures act.
 
On behalf of the National Wildlife Federation and One Hundred Miles, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a motion for summary judgement this week, arguing in favor of the 2015 rule based on the science used in drafting the rule.
 
A motion for summary judgement asks a court to issue a ruling based on agreed-upon facts in a case.
 
“No one seriously disputes that Justice (Anthony) Kennedy held that waters are covered under the Clean Water Act if they have a ‘significant nexus’ to primary waters,” the latest motion said.
 
“The question, then, is whether the agencies had a sufficient scientific basis for identifying waters under the Clean Water Rule as having a ‘significant nexus’ — as defined by Justice Kennedy — to primary waters. The agencies’ position that they did is supported by more than 1,200 scientific publications and confirmed by 27 of the nation’s top scientists, among other things.”

Continue reading at DTN The Progressive Farmer…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

INSIDE EPA: Wheeler Vows To Unveil ‘Clear’ CWA Jurisdiction Proposal Within 30 Days

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the agency within 30 days will unveil its proposal for a new “clean and straightforward” Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction standard that follows the water law and confusing Supreme Court precedent, and which is expected to be narrower in scope than the Obama-era rule it will replace.
 
“As we’re moving forward on waters of the U.S., we hope to have something out over the next 30 days or so for a proposal,” Wheeler said during his opening remarks to an Oct. 2 roundtable hosted by EPA’s Smart Sectors industry outreach program — an outreach effort through which the Trump administration is working with industrial sectors to assess potential burdens from EPA regulations and steps to overcome them.
 
Wheeler avoided saying what legal test the proposal will use for defining the water law’s reach, instead promising that “our definition will be clear and straightforward and easy for land-owners to understand.”
 
The Trump administration’s proposed rule on the scope of the CWA has been under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget since June 15, and had originally been slated for release in August.
 
EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers previously proposed to repeal the Obama-era CWA rule last year, and issued a “supplemental” document aimed at bolstering their reasons for the rollback in June. The upcoming replacement proposal would float a new, likely narrower, standard for defining waters subject to the CWA.

Continue reading at Inside EPA…

HIGH PLAINS/MIDWEST AG JOURNAL: Opinion: Eric Bohl: WOTUS given new life by federal judge

The election of President Trump seemed to spell relief for those concerned about WOTUS’s overreach. Soon after being sworn into office, the President announced his intention to rescind WOTUS and replace it with a more reasonable regulation. The new regulation would be tailored to provide legal clarity without overreaching the federal government’s jurisdiction.
 
The EPA then formally suspended WOTUS and said it would issue a replacement rule in 2018. Many farmers and agriculture groups breathed a sigh of relief, feeling that the fight had been won. However, a new court battle brewed over the EPA’s suspension of WOTUS. In mid-August, a federal judge in South Carolina issued a nationwide injunction against the EPA’s WOTUS suspension, immediately making WOTUS the law of the land.
 
Fortunately, the 2015 North Dakota injunction still blocks WOTUS from becoming law in Missouri and the other 12 states involved in that suit. Injunctions by other courts are blocking WOTUS in another 15 states, leaving 22 states in which WOTUS is now the law. These states are not just on the liberal east and west coasts; farmers in Missouri’s neighboring states of Oklahoma, Illinois and Tennessee are now under the thumb of the EPA.
 
President Trump’s EPA has said it will review the order and work to determine next steps, but the administration is still expected by many to continue to work for the repeal and replacement of WOTUS.
 
The federal government has no right to regulate dry ditches or wet spots in a field. Requiring farmers and landowners to ask Washington for permission before doing normal, environmentally-harmless activities not only goes against the law, it goes against American values. Farm Bureau will continue to work for the clean water and clear rules that mean so much to farmers and ranchers across our country.

Continue reading at High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal…

INSIDE EPA: Industry renews bid for nationwide bar on 2015 CWA rule

An industry coalition is renewing its push for a court order that would block implementation of the 2015 Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule nationwide, urging a federal district judge in Georgia to expand the scope of her current injunction barring implementation of the rule in 11 states to cover the entire United States.
 
The Sept. 26 motion filed jointly by a broad array of industry groups in State of Georgia, et al., v. Wheeler, et al., calls for Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia to bar enforcement of the CWA rule — also termed the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule — follows a decision in a Texas federal district court that rejected a separate request from the same groups for a nationwide injunction.
 
“Consistency in preventing harmful enforcement of the WOTUS Rule is now only possible if this Court’s preliminary injunction is modified to match the national parties who are plaintiffs before it. The Court should therefore enjoin enforcement of the WOTUS Rule on a nationwide basis, or at minimum in the jurisdictions not already covered by the Court’s or another court’s preliminary injunction,” the motion says.
 
Wood on June 8 blocked the CWA rule in the states of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Kentucky.
 
But the limited scope of that order took on new importance on Aug. 16 when South Carolina district Judge David C. Norton struck down the Trump administration’s addition of a 2020 “applicability date” that suspended enforcement of the Obama-era standard, instantly reviving the rule in every state not covered by an injunction like Wood’s.

Continue reading at Inside EPA…

DTN THE PROGRESSIVE FARMER: AFBF Seeks National WOTUS Injunction

The waters of the United States saga continues, as the American Farm Bureau Federation asked a federal court in Georgia on Wednesday to issue a national injunction on the 2015 WOTUS rule.
 
A series of ongoing court actions has left the rule in a state of chaos, as currently 28 states are exempted and 22 are not.
 
The AFBF is leading a coalition of business groups in asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in Brunswick to extend a previous injunction on 11 states to the remaining 22 states where the rule is in effect.
 
Most recently, Iowa was added to the list of now 28 states not under the jurisdiction of the rule thanks to a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota on Sept. 18.
 
A South Carolina court recently ruled EPA violated the Administrative Procedures Act in finalizing a suspension rule that delayed WOTUS until 2020. As a result, the 2015 rule took effect in Iowa and a number of other states. Currently, the EPA is preparing a new rule redefining waters of the United States.

Continue reading at DTN The Progressive Farmer…

Photo Credit: Chris Clayton