Ag Policy Blog

WOTUS Repeal Proposal Draws Wide Reaction

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is going back to the drawing board on the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule. (DTN file photo)

With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's release of an interim waters of the United States rule on Tuesday, as par for the course, the inbox was flooded with reaction from across the country.

The agency said in a news release it will re-codify the WOTUS rule to pre-2015 language. Essentially, this means much of the confusion about which waters are jurisdictional will not be answered by this rule.

However, the EPA said it is working with stakeholders across the country in an attempt to do what no other federal government has been able to do - clarify Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

Anyway, here's a sample of more reaction from Tuesday's big announcement, in no particular order:

-The Waterkeeper Alliance said in a news release the action was "EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's plan to eliminate essential Clean Water Act protections for waterways across the country that have been in place since the 1970s."

It should be noted that returning the CWA to pre-2015 language provides the same protections in place prior to the Obama administration's WOTUS rule. During the formation of the WOTUS rule, EPA officials had said they essentially were clarifying the original intent of the law, which has been in place since the early 1970s.

"This action is not about restoring the state's role in the protection of water, the states are the primary entities that implement the Clean Water Act," Waterkeeper Alliance Senior Attorney Kelly Hunter Foster said in a statement. "This is EPA Administrator Pruitt's first step in implementing a long-term industry strategy to eliminate federal and state authority to protect waterways against industrial pollution."

A number of governors and members of Congress weighed in on the proposal, as well.

Here's a sample:

-Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, "Thank you to President Trump and Administrator Pruitt for delivering on your promise to roll back this job-killing regulation. This policy returns federal oversight of intra-state waterways to pre-2015 standards, respects the rights of private land owners and states, and provides for ample protection of clean water. Removing this threat to our state's top industries gives Nebraska the freedom to grow more opportunities for the next generation in the areas of agriculture and manufacturing."

-Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, "The Clean Water Rule was another example of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. trying to run Kansas farms and ranches. Our state is a leader in water innovation, and Kansans have come together through community-led water preservation efforts spurred by our 50-year water vision. Our farmers and ranchers know best how to steward their water."

-North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, "Clean water is critical to quality of life and our economy, and no one cares more about clean water in North Dakota than the people who live here. Today's action is a welcome step toward a rule recognizing that states are best positioned to protect, manage and regulate their own waters. The Obama administration's WOTUS rule was a particularly egregious example of regulatory overreach that effectively classified almost every pond, pothole and slough as a federal managed waterway, creating confusion and uncertainty for farmers, ranchers, landowners and local governments."

-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, "When we took office, we asked our farmers and ranchers what we could do to fight for them. One of the things we heard is that they needed our help to push back against Obama's waters of the United States regulations. Well, we took that message to Washington D.C. and the good news is they've heard us."

-Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, "This is great news for accountability in government. This was a bad regulation drafted under a bad process. The EPA over-reached its authority and ignored and manipulated legitimate concerns raised by the public. Farmers, land owners and builders in Iowa struggled to make sense of the regulation. Having the federal EPA and the Corps of Engineers require permits for routine land use decisions is a waste of resources that are better used enforcing existing regulations against discharging pollutants into the nation's waterways."

-Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., "I'm pleased Administrator Pruitt and the EPA has listened to our concerns and has taken an important first step to rescind the infamous WOTUS rule. For too long, this rule has burdened not only farmers and ranchers, but landowners of all sizes, across the country. With a rewrite of the WOTUS rule, I look forward to seeing a rule that recognizes and respects the environmental strides taken by the American farmer and rancher."

-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., "The West has finally won in the battle over the Obama administration's WOTUS rule. This regulation would have been a disaster for the West and rural communities across the country, giving Washington near-total control over water resources. The livelihoods of American farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs were at stake."

-Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., "Today's announcement from the administration signals another important step toward full removal of the harmful WOTUS rule. All Nebraskans would have been affected by the far-reaching consequences of this misguided policy."

-Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, "Given that the Nevada is the driest state in the nation, water is a precious resource to Nevadans. Whether it's Marlow from Ruby Valley or Darryl from Yerington, Nevadans around the state have told me that they fear the WOTUS rule provides federal agencies with almost unlimited authority to regulate their farms and ranches at their own discretion."

-Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., "Today marks the beginning of restoring private property rights while protecting our environment. Out of state D.C. bureaucrats shouldn't impose regulations that hurt Montana farmers, ranchers and landowners."

-Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., "Under the Obama-era WOTUS rule, treating your lawn for mosquitos, putting up a fence in your backyard or spraying your crops could become federally regulated activities that carry substantial fines if violations occur -- knowingly or unknowingly. The Trump administration is right to propose a repeal."

Common Sense Nebraska, which includes a coalition of a number of state agriculture and other interest groups, said in a statement on Tuesday the repeal is good for agriculture.

"Today, countless farmers, ranchers, homebuilders, manufacturers, county governments, golf courses, and small businesses are loudly celebrating the demise of EPA's proposed WOTUS rule," said Steve Nelson of Axtell, Nebraska, speaking on behalf of the coalition.

"For over two years, our coalition which represents the very industries who would have had to bear the brunt of this federal land grab, have worked tirelessly to stop this breathtaking assumption of authority by the federal government that flies in the face of Congressional intent, legal precedents, and even science."

Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach, "The expansive reach and inability to determine what water or land may fall under jurisdiction under the existing regulation puts Nebraska's agriculture industry in jeopardy. Our farmers and ranchers have proven to be thoughtful stewards of our land and resources, and jurisdiction of those resources should be the responsibility of the states."

Also, 22 attorneys general and even the American Petroleum Institute provided comment in favor of the WOTUS repeal.

The attorneys general include those from Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming and Kentucky.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, "This rule directly infringed on the states' ability to regulate their own national resources and posed a burden to Texas property owners whose land would be subject to new EPA regulations."

Earlier in June, a 20-state coalition urged the EPA in a letter to respect states' rights in its ongoing review of the rule.

API Upstream and Industry Operations Group Director Erik Milito, "Today's action by the administration will help spur U.S. job creation by providing the regulatory certainty needed to encourage investment and advance America's energy leadership. This rule would have imposed burdensome and costly regulations, and stifled energy production with little to no environmental benefit."

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

Follow me on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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SD Farmer
6/29/2017 | 4:04 PM CDT
Farmers need the same attention and pressures to be applied to the sod-swamp provisions of the Farm Bill. The EPA type of extremist philosophy is being adopted by the NRCS and the USDA. NRCS no longer promotes crop production tools such as irrigation or tile drainage, but instead is promoting an extremist regulatory policy of taking land out of production and infringing on property rights. If we don't produce it here it will be produced somewhere else with less overhead and regulation and that means less jobs here. NRCS is the "NEW EPA", get ready.