EPA seeks to expand jurisdiction

Listen to full audio story by Farm Broadcaster Shawna Robertson.

Over one hundred seventy Members of Congress have written to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to express deep concerns that the agencies are attempting to circumvent the proper regulatory process in order to push through a dramatic expansion of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

The letter states that the Federal ‘Agencies have ignored calls from state agencies and environmental groups, among others, to proceed through the normal rulemaking procedures, and have avoided consulting with the States, which are the Agencies’ partners in implementing the Clean Water Act.’

The EPA and the Corps sent a draft “guidance” document to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for regulatory review to identify waters subject to jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Members of Congress agree that the “guidance” goes beyond clarifying the scope of U.S. waters subject to the act programs.

Both the American Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association are pleased with the push back by Congress on the issue.

Farm Bureau Regulatory Specialist Don Parrish says the EPA’s regulatory guidance would allow it to vastly boost an impending pesticide permit requirement.

“If this guidance document, as the Corps and EPA says it does in this lead document, expands jurisdiction all of the sudden it is going to be virtually impossible to avoid an erosion feature,” Parrish says. “It is going to be impossible for them to avoid every ditch, and impossible for them to avoid every isolated puddle on their farm. If that is the case then it broadens the number of pesticides that will need to have permits.”

Parrish says EPA and the Army Corps are involved in a sham process to expand jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act-power they couldn’t get from Congress two years ago.

“We think that the bipartisan support is extremely strong, especially in the House, because we had both the chairmen and ranking members of both the House Agriculture Committee and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” Parrish says. “Both speak to this issue and both signed on to this letter.”

NCBA Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon said EPA is continuing business as usual, but Congress is pushing back.

Proposals to expand federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act met with stiff bipartisan resistance in previous Congresses.

But, Parrish says EPA wants more authority and won’t take no for an answer…

“They want to expand jurisdiction into features that most people do not and will not support as being designated waters of the U.S.,” Parrish says. “We’re not fighting about rivers and streams and creeks, things that have water in them. We’re fighting about things that only have water in them during rainfall events.”

Parrish says farmers need to get educated on this issue and how it could impact the landscape that they farm. He adds the Senate needs to fix the problem-as the House has voted to do- by reversing court-ordered permits for pesticide spraying in or near water.