Waters Advocacy Coalition: It’s Time For Clean Water And Clear Rules

WASHINGTON – September 12, 2019 –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers  (USACE) today announced a final rule repealing the unlawful 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which vastly and unclearly expanded the definition of “Waters of the United States” beyond the limits imposed by Congress and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 2015 WOTUS rule unlawfully infringed on the role of states in protecting local waterways and granted the federal government nearly unlimited authority to regulate any low spot where rainwater collects. This ambiguous rule also resulted in substantial regulatory uncertainty and legal risk for a broad cross-section of the nation’s economy.

The 2015 rule was quickly blocked by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals based on its legal flaws and the potential for it to cause significant economic and regulatory harm. It was never fully implemented nationwide. Thirty-one states and dozens of agricultural, conservation and industry groups filed legal challenges to the 2015 WOTUS rule for its unlawfully broad expansion of federal jurisdiction.

The Waters Advocacy Coalition, a broad coalition of organizations advocating for clean water and clear rules, thanks EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers for repealing the problematic 2015 WOTUS rule. The group also is encouraging the administration to finalize a new rule that protects the nation’s waters and provides clear rules for states, farmers, ranchers and small businesses to follow.

  • Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said, “This is a huge victory for farmers and ranchers, who share the goal of protecting our nation’s water resources. Farm Bureau appreciates this significant first step. We look forward to the administration and the agencies finalizing a new regulation that will provide clean water and clear rules.”
  • Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said, “America is now one step closer to smart and balanced regulation that protects our nation’s precious water resources. Courts already declared the 2015 rule illegal, following years of litigation that included a 9-0 victory for the NAM at the Supreme Court, so manufacturers are pleased to see it officially struck from the books. The old water rule, which sought to regulate dry land, was confusing and counterproductive. Manufacturers are committed to environmental stewardship, so now we look forward to a new, more effective rule to protect clean water.”
  • Marty Durbin, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Energy Institute, said, “For decades, America has been making tremendous progress to improve water quality. The 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule significantly expanded the definition of waters, creating great uncertainty for states, local governments, businesses and farmers. In addition, legal challenges have now led to an unworkable patchwork of federal regulations that vary from state to state. Today’s action to restore one national definition provides certainty for stakeholders and ensures that we can build upon existing standards to improve water quality. We look forward to working with the Administration to do just that.”
  • Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, said, “The 2015 WOTUS rule was so broadly written that it created substantial confusion and regulatory uncertainty, which caused customer costs to increase due to new operating requirements and delays for critical infrastructure projects. EEI applauds EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers for repealing the rule, which multiple courts already had found to be unlawful.“Today’s repeal is a key step toward providing long-overdue clarity for EEI’s member companies, which are making substantial investments to make the energy grid stronger, smarter, cleaner, more dynamic, and more secure for all customers. We look forward to working with EPA, the Army Corps, states, and other stakeholders as the agencies move forward with their efforts to finalize a new, clear WOTUS definition that will protect the integrity of our nation’s waters while offering more regulatory certainty for energy infrastructure permitting.”
  • Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder and developer from Torrington, Conn., said, “NAHB commends the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for repealing the 2015 WOTUS rule that vastly expanded federal overreach over water and land use by regulating man-made ditches and isolated ponds on private property. By repealing the 2015 rule, the EPA and Corps have taken an important step forward. Next, they need to finalize a new definition that restores common sense to the regulatory process by respecting states’ rights and balancing economic and environmental concerns.”
  • Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, said, “The administration’s decision to withdraw the deeply flawed Waters of the U.S. rule will provide much-needed clarity for communities and officials who are working to advance vital new infrastructure, development and remediation projects across the country. We are eager to work with the administration as it crafts a replacement rule that will provide the kind of certainty and common sense that the earlier measure lacked while continuing to protect water quality.”
  • Jennifer Houston, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said, “Cattle producers are the nation’s original environmental stewards – we work hard to ensure that our natural resources remain pristine and implement conservation practices to protect our water resource. The 2015 WOTUS Rule was an illegal effort by the federal government to assert control over both land and water, significantly impacting our ability to implement vital conservation practices.
    “After years spent fighting the 2015 WOTUS Rule in the halls of Congress, in the Courts, and at the EPA, cattle producers will sleep a little easier tonight knowing that the nightmare is over. Thanks to President Trump and Administrator Wheeler for their commitment to cooperative federalism farmers and ranchers and restoring the rule of law. NCBA looks forward to the finalization of a practical Waters of the United States definition that will protect our water resource while allowing cattle producers to do their jobs effectively.”
  • National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn said, “Today’s repeal turns the page on a deeply problematic regulation that exemplified the last administration’s federal overreach. The 2015 rule unlawfully expanded the scope of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction and, contrary to its intended purpose, added significant confusion to the question of which waters are federally regulated and which are protected by the states. We look forward to working with this administration as it takes the next step of finalizing the WOTUS replacement rule. The administration’s proposed definition strikes the appropriate balance between state and federal authority over waterways and reduces the uncertainty that has plagued Clean Water Act implementation for decades.”

About the Waters Advocacy Coalition

The Waters Advocacy Coalition is a broad cross-section of small businesses, farmers, ranchers and job creators that represent virtually every segment of the American economy. We rely on clean water and are committed to protecting the environment and the communities in which we live and work.

Our member companies power small towns and big cities, provide the materials for and construct the nation’s roads and family homes, deliver retail goods and services, and produce food, fuel and fiber for families in the U.S. and around the world. Members of WAC are seeking a new rule that provides regulatory clarity, promotes clean water, and protects jobs.

IOWA AGRIBUSINESS RADIO NETWORK: Clean water rule comment period opened by EPA

For years, farm groups and producers made their voices heard about the proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama Administration. The EPA under the Trump Administration has tabled that rule and proposed a new WOTUS definition, and the comment period is open.

The new version of WOTUS considers concerns which farmers and Ag groups voiced about possible overreach by the EPA. Supporters of the new rule say it gives a much clearer definition of the jurisdiction of EPA and difference between land and navigable waters. We hear from American Farm Bureau Federation’s Don Parrish.

Continue reading at Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network…

Photo Credit: Clean Water Iowa

BROWNFIELD AG NEWS FOR AMERICA: Farm Bureau Urging Comments On New Clean Water Rule

Farm Bureau groups are galvanizing members to comment on the new Clean Water Rule.

Leslie Holloway, head of regulatory affairs with the Missouri Farm Bureau, tells members the new rule is better than the far-reaching Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule under the Obama administration, “This proposed rule is completely different from that. It IS a regulation but we are supporting it. It goes in the right direction.”

Holloway reminded Missouri Farm Bureau members at state headquarters Wednesday, that it’s been a long road, since the early 2000s, to get to a rule that will work for agriculture, “There WERE some regulations that would have actually put into the rule the decision that the U.S. Supreme Court made which was favorable to landowners so there wouldn’t be this overreach by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as EPA. But, unfortunately, that opportunity passed in 2000.”

Continue reading at Brownfield AG News for America…

Photo Credit: Brownfield AG Staff

RADIO 570 WNAX: EPA Opens Comment Period on WOTUS Rewrite

Late last week the public comment period started on the rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. Rule and will remain open until April 15. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Environmental Counsel Scott Yager says his group is in favor of the re-written regulation and will be filing comments supporting it.

He says several environmental groups have already pushed back against the rewrite.

Yager expects there could be upwards of a million comments made on the rule and eventually it may end up having to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yager says NCBA is encouraging their members to comment on the rule and to attend the EPA’s listening session on February 27 and 28 in Kansas City.

Continue reading at Radio 570 WNAX…

SPRINGFIELD BUSINESS JOURNAL: Opinion: Clean Water Rule a significant improvement for Missouri

After years of legal and political battling, the Trump administration is nearing the final stage of undoing President Obama’s overzealous Waters of the United States rule.

A far more reasonable regulation known as the Clean Water Rule would take its place. Between Feb. 14 and April 15, the Environmental Protection Agency is taking comments on the new rule through its website.

The Clean Water Rule would continue our decadeslong commitment to clean water for all Americans. The new language keeps protections in place while clarifying and simplifying definitions. This will help citizens follow the law and keep our water clean.

One of the Obama-era WOTUS rule’s biggest faults was its ambiguity. The language was very technical and theoretical. In practice, it was so ambiguous and complicated that a farmer could not just look at the features of his or her land and determine if the rules applied.

But expert environmental evaluations and legal opinions are extremely costly and violating the WOTUS rule carried potential fines of $37,500 per day. Most farmers could not afford either option. This could lead to widespread uncertainty or lack of compliance by good people who want to follow the law.

Continue reading at Springfield Business Journal…

DTN THE PROGRESSIVE FARMER: WOTUS 60-Day Public Comment Begins

In a statement to DTN, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the group supports the proposal.

“Today’s release of a new draft Clean Water Rule is a major step toward fair and understandable water regulation on America’s farms and ranches and other working lands,” Duvall said. “We haven’t yet examined every word of today’s proposal, but even a quick look shows many of the previous rule’s worst problems are on their way out.”

Agriculture and other industry groups raised concerns that the 2015 rule expanded federal jurisdiction of water and land, leading to a series of lawsuits.

Waters Advocacy Coalition, a lobbying coalition championing the new WOTUS rule, said the process in creating the new rule has been transparent.

“Over the past two years, the EPA and Army Corps have engaged with state, tribal, and local officials as well as affected stakeholders to propose a new clean water rule,” spokesman Arjun Mody said in a statement. “This proposed new clean water rule provides clarity on the scope of federal authority under the Clean Water Act and recognizes the primary responsibilities of states and tribes to manage their land and water resources.”

Continue reading at DTN The Progressive Farmer…

Photo Credit: DTN File Photo

THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE: Editorial: EPA rules on water are ridiculous overreach on landowners

Last December, the Trump administration presented a proposal to pull back many of the EPA’s cumbersome rules – among them, the Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, regulations. Those are rules regarding “navigable waters” that basically tell Americans what they can do with sometimes even the tiniest sprinkling of water on their property.

Under EPA rules set forth by President Obama in 2015, federal protection is extended, for example, to any stream created just by intermittent rainfall, or “wetlands” that really are no more than patches of soggy dirt.

“Putting WOTUS in rough terms,” wrote Burt Rutherford, an editor for the agriculture trade magazine BEEF, “the rule means that if a duck thinks it can land on it, any puddle is considered navigable and falls under jurisdiction of the federal government.”

A stretch? Not by much. Do those rules sound like they make even the tiniest bit of sense?

Continue reading at The Augusta Chronicle…

CAPITAL PRESS: Trumping’ regulation: Administration rolling back restrictions on agriculture

On the regulatory front, this administration is clearly better than the last, said Paul Schlegel, managing director of public policy for the Farm Bureau.

“There is a tendency to listen a little bit more in this administration and welcome input,” he said.

Outreach is better, and there’s a willingness to get a feel for what it means to own land and invest in equipment, he said.

“It’s a significant change. I think when people do listen they gain an appreciation of your view and don’t dismiss it out-of-hand,” he said.

Waters of the U.S.

The Farm Bureau has focused on changes to several regulatory issues, with the Waters of the U.S. at the top of the list, he said.

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the controversial WOTUS rule, which greatly expanded federal authority over waters protected under the Clean Water Act.

More than 30 states sued the federal government, and the Farm Bureau and farmers were involved in litigation as well, he said.

In December, the Trump administration proposed a new WOTUS rule, which it says will bring certainty to farmers and ranchers that they’re not going to face enforcement for what they do on their land and features such as a low spot that temporarily holds water after a rain won’t be subject to regulation, he said.

“It’s a more balanced and reasonable interpretation of the statute. It’s tremendously important,” he said.

Reining in WOTUS is also a top priority for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“That’s one (issue) where we’re seeing repeal and replace — that’s huge,” Scott Yager, NCBA’s chief environmental counsel, said. “It’s one of the biggest issues; it regulated just about anything out there.”

It was also intentionally ambiguous to give agencies carte blanche to interpret the rule however they want, he said. The rule would have applied federal protection to every stock pond, farm ditch, seasonal stream and dry wash in the country, he said.

It was a broad over-expansion of the Clean Water Act, which would have resulted in every farm and ranch falling under its purview. That would have a direct impact on producers in time and money to comply, get permits and hire consultants and engineers, he said.

Replacing the rule is taking longer than NCBA had hoped, but it’s happening. The administration came out with a new rule that includes some really good things, he said.

“It provides clean water and clear rules,” he said.

Continue reading at Capital Press…

Photo Credit: USDA

THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE: Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler outlines deregulation

A Dearing plant nursery was the backdrop for acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler to outline proposed changes to the “Waters of the U.S.” rule that determines which waters are subject to federal regulation.

Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, has served as acting EPA administrator since the July resignation of Scott Pruitt amid various controversies related to excessive personal spending.

The proposed changes, cheered by farmers in the audience, are intended to allow a landowner “to tell if water is federal without having to hire outside professionals,” Wheeler said. “I say that as a former outside professional.”

The changes leave six categories of water considered waters of the U.S.: navigable waters, tributaries, some ditches – used for navigation or affected by tides – certain lakes and ponds, impoundments and wetlands connected to the previous five, Wheeler said.

The changes also define what is not a water of the U.S.: waters caused only by rain, groundwater, many roadside and farm ditches, converted cropland and stormwater control features, he said.

Continue reading at The Augusta Chronicle…

BUILDER: Opinion: Builders To Benefit From Revised WOTUS Rule

Builders scored a major victory at the end of 2018 when the Trump administration released its proposed new definition for the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. This revised rule is a welcome reprieve from the 2015 WOTUS definition, which was confusing and a huge encroachment of federal authority.

From the moment the 2015 regulation was proposed, NAHB fought it with our typical vigor. We engaged legislators and regulators, emphasizing how this rule was inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent and congressional intent. We also played a vital role in litigating WOTUS-related cases in the court system.

The administration heard us loud and clear. This proposed new WOTUS definition fulfills President Donald Trump’s commitment to the NAHB to end the 2015 rule. One of his earliest acts in office was to sign an executive order directing the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin to repeal and replace the previous definition. This action honored a campaign promise he made to the NAHB Board of Directors in 2016 when he was running for president, and we offered critical insight as the proposal was being developed.

The new definition would provide much-needed clarity regarding which waters fall under federal oversight. This would help accelerate the permitting process, which in turn will allow home builders to more easily provide affordable housing. As our nation deals with a major housing affordability crisis, we need these types of reasonable, common-sense regulations that do not unnecessarily raise home prices.

Continue reading at Builder…

Photo Credit: Builder Staff