WASHINGTON—Farmers and ranchers are working to stop an effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate waterways Congress never intended the agency to regulate.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has launched its “Stop the Flood of Regulation” campaign because it believes the EPA is trying to improperly alter the Clean Water Act. That law gives the EPA the power to write rules to protect navigable waters.
Using what is called a guidance document, the EPA is seeking to take the word “navigable” out of the law, which would allow it to regulate even a roadside ditch that holds water after a heavy rain.
“A guidance document is supposed to be a non-binding policy document for field offices on how to implement current law and current policies,” said Cody Lyon, AFBF grassroots and advocacy director.
Of concern to Farm Bureau, Lyon said, is that “there’s uncertainty with how this guidance document can be implemented. This could be interpreted many different ways around the country or even many different ways within a state. For 40 years the Clean Water Act has done a great job. The problem is the guidance document goes beyond Congressional intent, and they’re also ignoring the Supreme Court precedents that have determined the definition of ‘navigable.’”
That could be problematic for farmers and ranchers, who fear that even a farm pond or ditch could now fall under EPA permitting regulations.
“We’re talking thousands, tens of thousands of dollars,” he said, because the guidance could affect “anything dealing with livestock operations, anything dealing with applications of pest management tools, anything dealing with wetlands, groundwater, runoff, storm water. You could start having a flood of regulations that start coming in just from this one guidance document.
“We’re trying to make sure we stop this flood of regulations at the very beginning, before it starts getting out of control.”
Farm Bureau is asking its members who farm to tell their Congressional representatives how hard the new rule could hit them, and to ask for support of H.R. 4965, a bill that would preserve existing U.S. water rights and responsibilities in the Clean Water Act.
AFBF President Bob Stallman said the EPA guidance document “improperly changes the law of the land,” and he asserted that, in issuing it, the EPA is bypassing the necessary public outreach required under the Administrative Procedures Act.
Contact Tracy Taylor Grondine, 202-406-3642, or Cyndie Sirekis, 202-406-3649, AFBF public relations.