The Environmental Protection Agency’s and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed changes to the Waters of the U.S. rule is a power grab by the federal government according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
In formal comments submitted by WFBF Director of Governmental Relations, Karen Gefvert, outlined that the proposed expansion of water terminologies would give the federal government power to regulate land as if it were water anywhere that water pools or flows at any time.
WFBF requests that the rule be withdrawn and recommends the federal agencies begin transparent discussions to collaborate with states and landowner stakeholders on any changes to the federal Clean Water Act.
“The proposed rule by the EPA and the Corps is an expansion of federal regulatory authority. It was written without consultation of states that will be designated with enforcement authority and it lacks clarity regarding exemptions,” Gefvert said. “The Congressional intent of the Clean Water Act seems to be disregarded by the proposed definition and expansive overreach by the Corps and EPA.”
“The proposed rule would also include jurisdiction to regulate ditches, farm ponds, dry stream beds, and ephemeral streams,” Gefvert noted. “The regulatory creep that EPA and the Corps demonstrate by publishing this proposal clearly demonstrates the disconnect between a federal agency with the actuality of what is occurring when the boots are on the ground.”
“Wisconsin stands at the forefront of conservation and stewardship of natural resources in the United States. Our existing state standards protect water quality. The proposed rule is an expansion of federal regulatory authority and does nothing to provide additional protections of our natural resources,” Gefvert said.
Under the proposal, many current Wisconsin “Waters of the State” would no longer be regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), but instead would be considered a “Water of the United States” falling under the jurisdiction of the EPA or Corps.
“This change does nothing to better manage or protect our natural resources,” Gefvert stressed. “This is solely a change in jurisdiction which is unnecessary, duplicative and is already being well regulated by our state agency.”
“A major change in jurisdictional authority has led to confusion about the expectations, implementation and repercussions that farmers will face from this new definition of ‘Waters of the United States’. The EPA has gone to great lengths to clarify their intent but have created more confusion, and ultimately, mistrust from the farming community.” Gefvert wrote.
“What it does change for farmers and landowners is an increase in exposure to additional federal regulation, enforcement and oversight. It also exposes farmers to unwarranted and unfounded citizen lawsuits that are allowed under the Clean Water Act,” Gefvert adds.
The proposed changes to the Clean Water Act were posted in the Federal Register in April. The EPA will review all comments that were submitted by its November 14 deadline. A final rule is expected to be published sometime in 2015.
Read WFBF’s full comments submitted to the EPA at: http://wfbf.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/CWA-WOTUS-Nov-2014-2.pdf.