NFU submits WOTUS comments, urges cooperation with EPA
September 25, 2014
The National Farmers Union today submitted comments on the Waters of the United States rule that the farm group said were designed to advise the Environmental Protection Agency on how draft a final rule "that does not increase [Clean Water Act] jurisdiction and promotes consistent application of EPA policies, which aligns with the agencies' stated intent."
"These comments should help the agencies avoid using language that could be taken out of context and used to stretch CWA jurisdiction in the future," said NFU President Roger Johnson.
"The agencies' stated intent is to replace inconsistent practices with clear, bright-line tests through this proposed rule," Johnson said.
"If NFU's comments are given proper consideration, the final rule will allow the regulated community the certainty it needs to conduct its business free from fear of undue regulatory interference and without sacrificing the agencies' ability to protect the United States' water resources," he added.
"The importance of clean water today and for future generations is critical to the well-being of the nation."
Johnson said that if NFU's comments are incorporated into the final rule, a number of "important and much needed clarifications" will be achieved, including:
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• A definition of "tributary" that clarifies without increasing CWA jurisdiction.
• A bright-line rule for "adjacent waters," reducing the need for case-by-case determinations.
• Codification of agency practice in light of Supreme Court rulings, increasing the predictability of jurisdictional determinations by the agencies.
• An exclusion of ditches that do not connect with wetlands, riparian areas, floodplains, or other waters.
• An exclusion of ditches without perennial flow from CWA jurisdiction.
• Affirmation of exemptions for normal agricultural activities.
In marked contrast to leaders of the American Farm Bureau Federation and some other farm groups, which have called on EPA to "ditch the rule," the Democratic-leaning NFU said in a news release that other groups submitting comments should be constructive in critiquing the rule.
NFU also asked other groups to remember that EPA has been ordered by the courts to write a rule, and that it was "up to vested interests like farmers and ranchers to provide expertise and insight as to how this rule will operate in the real world."
"If NFU's comments are incorporated into the final rule, it will remove a lot of uncertainty and protect family farmers from litigation," Johnson said.
–The Hagstrom Report