Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Just in from Capitol Hill

Farmers cheer Senate move to stop EPA overreach

Washington—A newly introduced Senate bill, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, would put in check the EPA and its attempt to broaden the definition of “waters of the U.S.” Farmers and ranchers say they’re grateful congressional lawmakers are listening to them as it seems EPA has turned a deaf ear to their concerns.

“Tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers and land owners have spoken out, but EPA has yet to fully acknowledge the proposal’s potential impact on everyday farming activities,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “We work hard every day to minimize the environmental impact of raising the food, fuel and fiber we all consume. We’re grateful that our congressional representatives are paving the way to safeguard both farmers and their land.”

The legislation, introduced today by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), directs the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised WOTUS rule that does not include things such as isolated ponds, ditches, agriculture water, storm water, groundwater, floodwater, municipal water supply systems, wastewater management systems and streams without enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.

Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) are also original cosponsors of the bill.

In a letter, Farm Bureau and more than 80 additional agriculture organizations urged leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee to act quickly on the bill.

“The sooner Congress acts, the sooner the agencies can re-craft a rule that more accurately reflects the will of Congress, while respecting the concerns of all affected parties. By acting before the agencies’ regulation is promulgated, Congress can provide the best opportunity and path to ensure that a final rule is practical, reflects congressional intent, and ensures appropriate environmental safeguards,” the groups wrote to Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Inhofe and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts, as well as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Agriculture Committee.

Early last month, EPA sent its WOTUS final rule to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. This is the last step before the release of the final rule. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs received the proposed rule April 6. OIRA’s regulatory review is supposed to take 90 days, although controversial rules can be tied up far longer. EPA officials have long said that they are aiming to finalize the rule this spring.

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