Fifteen states’ attorneys general challenge EPA ‘waters’ rule

earth-newFifteen attorneys general from states with significant farming and ranching sectors have sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency objecting to the EPA’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule.

The letter expresses displeasure with the rule because it would narrow exemptions provided in the Clean Water Act for “normal farming activities.” It is signed by officials from Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.

By “limiting the exemption to only those conservation practices specifically identified, (the EPA has) impermissibly narrowed the scope of ‘normal farming’ activities that have historically been considered exempt,” they wrote.

The EPA announced the proposed rule earlier this year with the intent of clarifying protections under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands. The federal agency also released an “interpretive rule to ensure that 56 specific conservation practices that protect or improve water quality” would not be subject to permitting requirements for the discharge of dredged or fill material.

“These ‘normal farming’ activities are now subject to performance measures issued by the Natural Resources Conservation Services, an agency without any authorization or obligation to implement the provisions” of the law, the letter says. The attorneys say the rule should be withdrawn.

The American Farm Bureau Federation shares that belief and has launched an aggressive campaign urging the EPA to “Ditch the Rule.”

In mid-July, the AFBF released to Congress a comprehensive document that responds point by point to inaccurate and misleading comments made about the proposed rule by EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner in an agency blog post. The AFBF document explains with specific citations how the rule would give the EPA broad Clean Water Act jurisdiction over dry land features and farming practices long declared off-limits by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said that organization is “dedicated to communicating to farmers, their elected representatives and the public how the proposed rule will impose costly and time-intensive federal permitting regimens on commonplace and essential practices that our nation’s farmers and ranchers depend on. … It’s time for the agency to ditch this rule and start over.”