Ag Policy Blog

WOTUS Email Overflows on Executive Order

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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After years of legal wrangling, public outcry and hand washing on the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule, reaction to President Donald Trump's signing of an executive order on Tuesday to reverse the rule hung up in federal court, filled up the email box at an alarming rate.

Whether numerous legal challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's action continues or not, remains to be seen. The president's order essentially orders EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the WOTUS rule, and likely rescind and rewrite.

The definition of waters of the U.S., however, has been left open to debate for years.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the order for those opposed to the WOTUS rule, is a new rule may be written and a new public comment period launched.

During the lead up to the finalizing of the WOTUS rule by the Obama administration, agriculture and other interests said they believed concerns they aired about the rule went unaddressed by the EPA.

As you'll see by the nature of public statements sent to media outlets, this debate will continue on into the foreseeable future.

Here's a sample of the response to the executive order:

-"Sportsmen will not settle for watered-down protections or negligence for the habitat that supports the fish and wildlife we love to pursue," said Whit Fosburgh, president and chief executive officer of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

"If this administration wants to put its stamp on the rule, they should honor the years of solutions-oriented consensus on the need to reverse wetlands loss, which has been fueled by legal and regulatory confusion. More clarity for headwater streams and wetlands protections should be the baseline standard from which to improve the rule, not the target of a tear-down."

-"President Trump's action today endangers all who depend on clean water, which is every single person and business in the country," said Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi.

"We all know that public health and our economy suffer when polluters discharge untreated sewage and industrial waste into any of our nation's waters, including wetlands, streams, lakes, and rivers. We also know that pollution flows downstream and poisons larger waterways used for drinking water, fishing, and recreation. This is why Congress passed the Clean Water Act more than 40 years ago -- Waterkeeper Alliance will fight every effort to destroy these longstanding clean water protections."

-"We are encouraged by the president's action and look forward to a renewed dialogue with the EPA and the Corps to develop more workable rules at the local level," said Bryan Desloge, president of the National Association of Counties. "Since counties play a critical role in implementing and enforcing federal water policies, it is crucial that the agencies work with us to develop rules and regulations that work at the local level."

-Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen: "President Trump's reckless order is an assault on each and every one of us, our health, and our well-being. By attacking the Clean Water Rule and fundamental protections under the Clean Water Act, the president is putting the drinking water of 117 million people at risk, demonstrating that he puts the interests of corporate polluters above the public's health."

-"Today's action is a significant step forward toward rolling back the burdensome WOTUS rule that hamstrings Iowa farmers, businesses and manufacturers," said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. "Throughout my 99-county tour across the state, I hear from folks repeatedly calling for this rule to be scrapped, which is why I have led efforts to do just that. This ill-conceived rule gives the EPA extensive power to regulate water on 97% of the land in the state of Iowa, breeding uncertainty and confusion for many in Iowa and across the country."

-"President Donald Trump's decision today to roll back the controversial waters of the U.S. regulation is a welcome development for the nation's dairy farmers, who have been concerned by the continuing lack of clarity and certainty generated by this policy," Said Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of the National Milk Producers Federation. "Today's action signals that the Trump administration recognizes we need to go back and rethink the entire process that led us to this point."

-"Withdrawing the WOTUS rule is a good start, and President Trump is to be commended for keeping this important campaign promise," said Myron Ebell, director for the Center of Energy and Environment. "However, the federal government's jurisdictional claims over wetlands under the Clean Water Act were far too broad before the WOTUS rule. New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt should direct EPA to develop a new wetlands rule that keeps federal jurisdiction within its constitutional limits."

-House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas- "Over the past eight years, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have repeatedly ignored the concerns of our nation's farmers and ranchers in their quest to implement the WOTUS rule. I applaud President Trump for taking the first steps to dismantle this egregious example of regulatory overreach."

-"In issuing the WOTUS rule in 2015, the Obama administration greatly expanded federal jurisdiction over lands that Congress never intended to be regulated by the Clean Water Act," said Chuck Conner, president and chief executive officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. "President Trump's action today corrects that overreach and sets the stage for a more deliberate and reasonable approach in defining what is a WOTUS."

-Iowa Gov. and Trump's choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to China, Terry Branstad- "Over the weekend, I attended National Governor's Association meetings in Washington, D.C., and had the chance to talk personally with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on the impact that the flawed Waters of the U.S. rule would have on our state. Everybody wants clean water that requires we have good, clear, and well-designed regulations. But this rule would have imposed significant barriers to the advancement of innovative, state and local driven, conservation and environmental practices that would actually advance our common goal for water quality."

-Izaak Walton League of America- "The Izaak Walton League of America believes the Clean Water Rule is fundamentally sound and that further delay in restoring protections for streams and wetlands risks long-term damage to water quality, habitat for fish and wildlife, and our economy. Unfortunately, by issuing an executive order to rescind or revise the Clean Water Rule, the Trump administration has set a different course.

"This effort is even more troubling because the president directs the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to consider defining waters protected by the Clean Water Act based on an extreme minority opinion from the Supreme Court. That opinion, authored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, rejected the intent of Congress in passing the Clean Water Act and is unsupported by the overwhelming science on the interconnected nature of waters."

-"Our concern with the rule has always about the nonspecific and overly broad nature of the rule as written, and never about the paramount goal of cleaner water and more environmentally sound farming practices," said Ron Moore, president of the American Soybean Association, and a western Illinois farmer.

"We believe that farmers can be a productive voice in the discussion over water regulation, and we look for a seat at the table, because as farmers, our primary goals are the healthy soils and clean water that sustain us from growing season to growing season. I'm 35 miles from the Mississippi River, and I've farmed my land for 36 years. I count on productive soil and clean water more than any other inputs, and I wouldn't be able to make it year to year if I fouled such important pieces of my operation."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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