Still time to comment on Clean Water Act proposal
An extension to comment on the proposed Clean Water Act’s “Waters of the United States” rule has been granted. Comments on the proposed rule, which could include water never regulated before, had flooded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by June 18, with almost 3.6 million comments received. Due to coalition letters sent from industry leaders -- including the ag sector -- the EPA has extended the deadline to submit a formal comment for an additional 90 days, to Monday, Oct. 20. See “Submit Clean Water Act comments” on how to have your say.
Though comments on the proposed rule continue to flow, the floodgates have closed on agricultural exemptions to the rule. Although the deadline is Monday, July 7, a visit to the EPA website reveals the comment procedure “... is no longer open for comment,” according to a notification there.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has been opposing the proposed rules since a leaked copy surfaced prior to the March 25 posting in the Federal Register.
The Farm Bureau’s “Ditch The Rule” website is educating the public as to why members are concerned -- even with ag exemptions in place. The Farm Bureau opposes the rules because:
•Exemptions only apply to the section 404 “dredge and fill” permit program. “The rule provides no protection from enforcement over other activities, such as weed control, fertilizer applications ... that may trigger CWA [Clean Water Act] liability and permit requirements. ... A farmer has to have been farming continuously since 1977 to benefit from the exemptions.”
•Existing exemptions will be tied to mandatory compliance with voluntary Natural Resources Conservation Service standards.
•“These exemptions are not part of the rule but, rather, included in an interpretive rule. ... These narrow exemptions will not protect farmers or other landowners from new restrictions or prohibitions that will come ....”
The Farm Bureau discredits EPA’s claims of less government regulation. The group warns that “the rule would micro-manage farming via newly mandated procedures for fencing, spraying, weeding, and more. Permitting, meanwhile, could delay time-sensitive tasks for months, potentially ruining crops in the process.”
The Farm Bureau also references a study by economist and University of California-Berkeley faculty member, Dr. David Sunding. The study was prepared for the Waters Advocacy Coalition, of which the American Farm Bureau Federation is a member.
Included in the executive summary of the study, released May 15, Sunding wrote:
•EPA proposes “to include categories of waters that were previously never regulated as waters of the United States, such as all waters in floodplains, riparian areas, and certain ditches.”
•“The EPA analysis relies on a flawed methodology ... that systematically underestimates the impact of the definitional changes.”
•EPA excludes “several important types of costs.”
Sunding said, “The errors, omissions, and lack of transparency in EPA’s study are so severe as to render it virtually meaningless. The agency should withdraw the economic analysis and prepare an adequate study of this major change in the implementation of the CWA [Clean Water Act].”
The Farm Bureau states that the rules “would impact everything from local governments trying to start or expand infrastructure projects to community gardens.”
“The EPA’s proposed waters of the U.S. rule is irreparably flawed from an economic standpoint,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “The rule is also an end run around Congress and two Supreme Court rulings, and in their official comments, farmers and ranchers across the nation are calling on EPA to ditch the rule.”
Submit Clean Water Act comments
Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880, by one of the following methods:
•Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
•Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Include EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line of the message.
•Send the original and three copies of your comments to: Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880.