Nebraska coalition opposes expanded EPA regs |

Nebraska coalition opposes expanded EPA regs

Common Sense Nebraska coalition members provided testimony at the U.S. Senate Committee of Environment and Public Works hearing held at Hardin Hall Auditorium at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The field hearing, coordinated by Nebraska’s U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, was held to address the EPA’s attempt to expand its authority to regulate private waters under the proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.Common Sense Nebraska representatives from Nebraska Cattlemen (NC), the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NRDs), Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO) and Nebraska State Homebuilders Association spoke in opposition of the proposed rule.

Negative agriculture impact

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Nebraska is comprised of more than 77,000 square miles of area with over 92 percent of that area used for agricultural purposes. The proposed rule would bring nearly all bodies of water under federal regulation. Testimony addressed concerns over costly and unnecessary permitting requirements for agriculture producers utilizing their own lands.

“Nebraska agriculture producers pride themselves on being good stewards of our state’s natural resources,” said NC President-Elect Barb Cooksley of Anselmo, NE. “We maintain open spaces and healthy rangelands and provide wildlife habitat while feedling the world. But to provide all these important functions, we must be able to operate without excessive federal burdens.”

Negative Legal Impact

In addition to highlighting the rule’s burdensome requirements for agriculture producers across the state, testimony questioned the federal government’s legal authority to expand regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

“The proposed rule does not merely codify existing judicial interpretations of navigable waters; it affirmatively expands the meaning to create federal controls that go far beyond what Congress intended when it adopted the Clean Water Act,” said Don Blankenau, a Lincoln-Nebraska environmental attorney speaking for the NRD’s. “Ultimately the proposed rule stretches the definition of navigable waters beyond credibility. There is no real problem the rule will solve. Instead, it is simply another example of the ever-growing federal erosion of state authority.”

Negative local government impact

The proposed rule would impact county-owned and maintained roadside ditches, flood control channels, drainage conveyances, stormwater systems, infrastructure construction and maintenance. Speaking for NACO, Douglas County Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson expressed the local government perspective.

“Any additional cost burdens are challenging to county governments, especially since rural counties have the most road miles and corresponding ditches,” said Borgeson. “Limited financial resources available to local governments pose significant implementation challenges. There must be local, state and federal partnership in crafting practical rules without impeding counties’ fundamental infrastructure and public safety functions.”

The rule would impose a blanket jurisdictional determination over thousands of acres of private property throughout the state and nation – whether or not the land is designated as agricultural. President of the Nebraska Home Builders Association Don Wisnieski said the rule would negatively impact his industry and Nebraska’s economic future.

In addition to testimony provided by Common Sense Nebraska coalition members, comments were provided by representatives from the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, Izaak Walton of America and the Center for Rural Affairs. F

Common Sense Nebraska is a coalition of organizations and entities that have come together in response to EPA’s WOTUS rule. The coalition’s purpose is to build awareness and understanding of the EPA proposal and the adverse impacts it would have on Nebraskans.

–Common Sense Nebraska