Waters coalition, SBA call for EPA ‘Waters’ rule withdrawal

earth-newA group of 63 business and agriculture organizations told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 29 that its recent statements about its proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule violate basic open-government requirements.

In a letter to the EPA and Congress, the Waters Advisory Coalition said the statements fail to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act and the rule should be withdrawn. The American Farm Bureau Federation, which has been vocal in its opposition to the rule, is a coalition member.

Among EPA misrepresentations cited in the coalition’s letter are a series of agency blog posts that provide new interpretations of the proposed rule’s language, as well as a failure to conduct meaningful consultations with farmers and other business owners. The coalition also cited comments from the Science Advisory Board that expose serious problems with scientific justifications for the rule put forth by the EPA. In addition, it released U.S. Geological Survey maps that show a massive expansion of territory covered under the proposed rule, despite the EPA’s earlier and vehement statements to the contrary.

“These are serious transgressions of principles of open government,” said Don Parrish, AFBF senior director of regulatory relations. “The EPA should withdraw this rule and have meaningful discussions with representatives of the farm families that stand to suffer most under this proposal.”

On Oct. 1, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy also called on the EPA to withdraw the proposed rule.

AFBF President Bob Stallman welcomed the news, saying the EPA “has been heedless and cavalier in its disregard for the American farmers who would be most affected by this unworkable proposal. … We agree that the EPA had an obligation to conduct a Small Business Advocacy Panel before releasing the rule for comment, and we agree that the rule should be withdrawn as a result.”

On Oct. 6 the EPA extended its public comment period on the “Waters of the U.S.” rule a second time, from Oct. 20 to Nov. 4.