Ag Policy Blog

Business Groups: Withdraw WOTUS Rule

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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A coalition of 63 business groups representing everything from farm organizations to oil and natural gas groups, as well as homebuilders, mining, manufacturing and even golf-course trade groups all joined to write federal regulators on Monday again asking them to withdraw the proposed rule redefining waters of the United States.

The Waters Advocacy Coalition laid out several arguments in a nine-page letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy and John McHugh, secretary of the Army, who oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Waters Advocacy Coalition raised what the broad mix of trade associations consider as "serious concerns" with the way EPA and the Corps have operated during the public comment period for the proposed rule.

The Corps and EPA proposed the rule spelling out what would be deemed as "waters of the U.S." last spring as a long-awaited response to Supreme Court cases over the past decade that had left the two federal agencies with diminished regulatory authority or lack of clarity under the Clean Water Act.

The coalition of some of the country's biggest lobby groups argues that new information, some controversial maps and efforts by the agencies to voice their views through blogs and speeches have all undermined rulemaking requirements under the Administrative Procedure Act. The business groups effectively argue EPA and the Corps are "creating a moving target for public comment."

Make no mistake here: Each of these business groups would like just as soon kill the rule as seek to improve upon it. Still, the coalition raises several points about various ways EPA and the Corps have sought to clarify definitions in the proposed rule, or as the business groups argue, made constant revisions to what the rule actually means. "Is the public responsible for tracking the Agencies' blog posts and ad hoc (italic) statements to piece together the meaning of regulatory terms?"

McCarthy has given speeches about the proposed rule as a way to answer questions or offer some reassurances that the rule is not a "land grab" as frequently characterized by the rule's critics.

The coalition also notes that EPA's own Scientific Advisory Board has problems with the term "significant nexus" that derived from Supreme Court opinions on the topic. Then there are the maps that come from EPA and effectively show more than 8 million miles of potentially regulated intermittent and ephemeral streams that could be regulated under the proposed rule. Yet, EPA argues the maps would not be used.

Business groups and state officials also question the limited input they had in working on the draft rule as well.

Thus, the business coalition again asked the agencies to "immediately withdraw the proposed rule" because of all of the various issues that have come up throughout the comment period.

The comment period for the waters of the United States rule closes Oct. 20. As of Tuesday, the proposed rule had received nearly 213,600 comments. http://www.regulations.gov/…

The letter and all of the groups that signed on it can be found here: http://www.fb.org/…

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Don Thompson
10/1/2014 | 7:06 AM CDT
However, the "coalition" letter is accessed from the Farm Bureau website. So do we just ignore this issue since it is the EPA and Army Corps suggesting resolve? It is the government after all, ag's "sugar daddy", especially in the down years. Is the current American philosophy, problems, even those man made, are best ignored, not contained, because it is inconvenient to not pollute?
Bonnie Dukowitz
10/1/2014 | 5:13 AM CDT
So more than just Farm Bureau is of the opinion that; ambiguity is not the solution to pollution.