EPA’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ analysis misses the mark
Washington-EPA claims it is not broadening jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act in its proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule, but a look at the million-plus acres that could be affected by the proposal says otherwise.
While EPA's analysis of the proposal determined there would be only 1,300 additional acres that would be regulated under the Clean Water Act, American Farm Bureau Federation analysis shows the proposed rule could affect more than 106 million acres, and that's looking exclusively from a wetlands perspective. The hundreds of millions of acres impacted could include, cropland, pastureland, Conservation Reserve Program acreage, rangeland, forestland and other agricultural lands, warned AFBF economist Veronica Nigh.
"There aren't going to be only a few growers who have to deal with the proposed rule. It's extensive, and it's going to affect almost all farmers and ranchers in the United States," said Nigh, who noted the wetlands expansion is just one of many new definitions Farm Bureau is concerned about in the proposed rule.
"Next, we'll start measuring how other land categories will be affected because this incredible scope of the implication of wetlands is just the tip of the iceberg," she said.
Published on April 21 in the Federal Register, the more-than-111,000-word "Waters of the U.S." proposed rule reflects EPA's latest interpretation of the 1972 Clean Water Act. The rule could ultimately lead to the unlawful expansion of federal regulation to cover routine farming and ranching practices as well as other common private land uses, such as building homes.
AFBF President Bob Stallman described the rule as an end-run around congressional intent and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, alike.
"Congress and the courts have both said that the 50 states, not EPA, have power to decide how farming and other land uses should be restricted. It's time to ditch this rule," Stallman said.
Among other things, the rule would expand federal control over land features such as ditches and areas of agricultural land that are wet only during storms.
EPA says its new rule clarifies the scope of the Clean Water Act. However, EPA's "clarification" is achieved by categorically classifying most water features and even dry land as "waters of the United States."
If carried out, Farm Bureau says, ordinary field work, fence construction or even planting could require a federal permit. The result will be a wave of new regulation or outright prohibitions on routine farming practices and other land uses.
To help Farm Bureau members and others express the need for EPA to "Ditch the Rule," Farm Bureau has launched a website at ditchtherule.fb.org. Focused on topics and analysis related to the "waters of the U.S." proposed rule, the easy-to-navigate site includes several sections: Take Action, Go Social, Find Answers and Get Resources. Visitors may also sign up to learn more, comment on the proposed rule and send tweets using the hashtag #DitchTheRule.