29 May 2015 - EPA Writes off Rural America

Finally, after years of discussion, debate and comment filing, the Environmental Protection Agency has made its ruling on how to deal with all water in the United States. It is the rule that was originally known as WOTUS, Waters of the United States, but now renamed the Clean Water Rule, re-titled by the Obama administration, probably to make it more palatable for people not involved in farming or ranching.
However, agriculture, as well as the golf course community and home construction companies, even many members of Congress, are not at all happy with the ruling by EPA.

I think Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska states the feelings of those of us in agriculture very well, and I quote her reaction - “This rule is an attack on the people of Nebraska. Through this unprecedented overreach, the federal government will now extend their control over our state’s water resources and burden our families with costly permit requirements. Make no mistake - this is a blatant attempt to expand the federal government’s control. This rule will have far-reaching consequences and hurt Nebraska families, communities and businesses.”

“Nebraskans are good stewards of our natural resources and protect our water at the state and local level. The Obama administration’s new regulation implies that Washington bureaucrats know better than the people of our state. This rule is reckless and unwarranted, and I will work tirelessly to stop this expansion of federal control.”

You can take Senator Fischer’s words and apply them to every state across the country. In April, the Senator joined a bipartisan group of her colleagues to introduce a new bill that would prevent this joint rule from the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA from taking effect. It will however, take a concerted effort to get that done.

Senate Bill 1140 would direct the administration to issue a revised proposal that would set clear limits on federal regulation of water, require consultation with states and impacted stakeholders, and ensure that a thorough economic analysis is conducted. Under the EPA rules, a farm ditch that carries melted snow runoff for a month in the spring and is dry the other 11 months could be declared a navigable waterway, subject to all the permit and use regulations.

In a six-month period the EPA received a million comments opposing the new rules, prompting Philip Ellis, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to say this is a clear indication there was no intention of considering the concerns of those most impacted by the new rules. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas suggested to me that Congress could deny funding the program and that would bring it to an end. Whatever it takes, legislation or withholding of funds, let’s get these rules changed. They make absolutely no sense!

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