EPA calls it 'historic step'

by Lawrence Aylward
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WASHINGTON – In what it calls a “historic step for the protection of clean water,” the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army finalized the Clean Water Rule Wednesday, in what the two organizations say clearly protect from pollution and degradation the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.

But the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) scoffed at the ruling, also known as the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule, sarcastically noting in a statement that “nothing left unregulated” is the apparent motto of the EPA.

NCBA said the proposed rule unilaterally strips private property rights and adds hundreds of thousands of stream miles and acres of land to federal jurisdiction. Under the guise of clarifying the Clean Water Act, the EPA and the Army Corps added ambiguous language to the law that leaves regulation up to the subjectivity of individual regulators across the country, according to the organization.

The EPA and the US Army say the rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry. The rule is grounded in law and the latest science, and is shaped by public input. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.

“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean, too,” McCarthy said. “Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”

According to NCBA, the proposal was written without input from agriculture. By law, the EPA must read and consider all comments submitted on the proposed rule, but only six months after receiving over 1 million public comments on the proposal, EPA has finalized the rule, NCBA noted.

Philip Ellis, NCBA president, said the proposed rule is a clear indication that there is no intention of considering the concerns of those most impacted by the rule.

“The former Obama campaign officials that received political appointments at EPA are apparently putting their activist knowledge base to use,” Ellis said. “Soliciting endorsements and support is a far cry from simply educating the public, as EPA officials claim.”

NCBA officials and other meat and poultry leaders were also peeved that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called cattlemen’s and ranchers’ concerns of the Clean Water Rule “ludicrous.”

Phil Reemtsma, president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, said while it seemed EPA forced the rule through the White House review process before Congress could act, he needed time to work through the 297-page document to form a more detailed opinion.

“In the next few days we’ll find out if EPA truly listened to the objective voices in the over 1 million comments on this topic based on the changes or clarity in the rule,” Reemtsma said earlier this week. “The ICA feels such a controversial topic needed more time for public discourse and engagement.”
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