The Environmental Protection Agency has issued it’s finalized Waters of the U.S. rule in a move they are calling “historic”. The issuance of the rule brings to a close months of debate and discussion between the agency and the agricultural community, although some speculate that either Congress or the court system could step in delaying implementation. By law, once the rule is finalized, the regulations will become effective 60 days after being published in the Federal Register, which will happen today.
According to EPA, the new rule is a rule of definition, not a change in regulation. Administrator Gina McCarthy has iterated many times that this rule is a clarification of current law as decided by the Supreme Court and not an expansion of current powers. Among the items highlighted in the EPA release, the rule will “provide certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters” and “clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters”. Administrator McCarthy has said the rule does not change the permitting process.
Reaction in the ag community has been tentative at best. The American Soybean Association says the document, which totals more than 290 pages, will take time to review. The National Cattleman’s Beef Association was more straightforward in their reaction, issuing a statement that says the “flawed rule comes from a flawed process” and added that EPA has effectively written of rural America.
The agriculture industry has been concerned about the regulation of drainage ditches on farmland. The EPA and Army Corps said the only ditches that would be covered under the rule are those that look; act and function like a tributary and could carry pollution downstream.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the final rule singled out land and water features considered to be unique – including Prairie Potholes – as still subject to case-by-case determinations.
EPA Deputy Administrator Ken Kopocis tried to allay agricultural concerns during a press call with farm broadcasters.
McCarthy said farmers will not be required to obtain Clean Water Act permits if they don’t already have them. She also said it does not cover tile drains, irrigation or water transfers.
The American Farm Bureau has led opposition to the rules, saying they could make business more difficult for farmers. The group said Wednesday that it would wait to review the final rules before responding.Share