EPA seeks to step backward on clean water policy

By Jordan Rasmussen

Since President Trump issued an executive order calling for the repeal and replacement of the 2015 Clean Water, or Water of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule, my husband has discussed the issue with — and heard the concerns of — his fellow farmers.

As any wife would do, I shared with him the facts and premise of the rule:

  • The rule clearly defines which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act, eliminating the need for a costly and time-consuming case-by-case evaluation.
  • The Clean Water Rule does not infringe upon property rights or regulate land use. Practices such as the discharge of agricultural stormwater or return flow from irrigated agriculture do not require additional permitting or oversight of property use. A permit is only required if protected water is polluted or destroyed.
  • The rule maintains existing exemptions under the Clean Water Act for normal farming and ranching practices such as planting, harvesting, or moving livestock.

Much to my husband’s surprise, what I shared did not align with the concerns he had heard of the rule being a land grab or overreach of power. Instead, it affirmed his daily practices of protecting the land and water that is critical not only to our livelihood, but to the water sources our neighbors rely on for drinking water, agriculture, and recreation.

A formal public comment period on the reinstatement of the previous set of regulations was opened on July 27, and will remain open through Sept. 27, 2017, 30 days longer than originally published. During this period, the Environmental Protection Agency is only seeking comments as to whether the regulation in place before the 2015 Clean Water Rule should be recodified.

A second phase of the rulemaking process will encompass efforts to redefine the waters of the U.S. and will include an accompanying comment period.

The guidelines and definitions under the 2015 Clean Water Rule provide clarity for farmers and ranchers while protecting vital water resources. My husband and I will submit a comment asking the Environmental Protection Agency to not take a step backward and wipe away the Clean Water Rule. We encourage you to do the same.

Jordan Rasmussen represents the Center for Rural Affairs. Established in 1973, the Center is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

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