It has been a few long years since we started talking about the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The fears of government overreach into private property became very real, very fast. Many agriculture groups were looking at ways to find a solution. Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it had fully rescinded the 2015 order. So, what is next?
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the repeal of the rule on Thursday.
According to Wheeler, this is the first of a two-step process. The second is hopefully getting a revised rule finalized for public comment by winter.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and its state affiliates have been some of the most vocal about getting a repeal done and a new, more clearly defined rule in place. AFB President Zippy Duvall commented on Thursday’s Announcement.
Reactions between environmentalists and members of agriculture were intriguing. Some believe this was an excuse to make the clean water act more lenient to agriculture, possibly opening the door for pollution. Farmers and agriculture groups countered this was never about clean water. It was about where the government could claim any water on private property as navigable trade waterways and take jurisdiction over them.
Farmers need clean water like anyone else. They water their crops with it. They use it for their livestock. They drink from the very wells on their property. What farmers didn’t want was a government office, a thousand miles away, telling them a drowned out spot in their cornfield was now considered a public waterway fit for navigable trade routes, no longer private property, and subject to different rules and regulations that they have for farming.
Reactions to the EPA’s repeal of the 2015 WOTUS rule came in from all over.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue:
“Repealing the WOTUS rule is a major win for American agriculture. The extreme overreach from the past Administration had government taking the productivity of the land people had worked for years,” Secretary Perdue said. “Farmers and ranchers are exceptional stewards of the land, taking great care to preserve it for generations to come. President Trump is making good on his promise to reduce burdensome regulations to free our producers to do what they do best – feed, fuel, and clothe this nation and the world.”
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds:
“The 2015 WOTUS rule was egregious Washington overreach that would have subjected a puddle of water to federal government control. By repealing this reckless regulation, President Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler provide Iowa farmers, business leaders and other important stakeholders with greater certainty, predictability and stability. We will continue to work alongside the President, his administration and Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst to ensure any new rule protects Iowa’s water quality in a commonsense way.”
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig:
“Today’s announcement by the Trump administration is a positive first step in providing regulatory clarity for Iowa’s farmers, manufacturers and agribusinesses,” said Secretary Naig. “I will continue working with our federal partners to ensure the final rule gives producers the freedom to operate using standard farming practices and implement conservation practices without the fear of fines and penalties.”
House Ag Committee Ranking Member Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX 11):
“I commend the Trump administration for repealing the land grab attempted under President Obama through its Waters of the U.S. regulation. WOTUS attempted to stretch the reaches of federal power under the Clean Water Act from navigable and interstate waters, which are rightly protected, to encompass ditches, playas, stock ponds, and literally any body of water – regardless of how small or temporary the water may be. The Trump administration’s efforts to bring the scope of EPA’s regulatory activity back to interstate and navigable waters not only ensures that EPA’s mission comports with Supreme Court rulings, but also applies a common sense understanding of what constitutes waters of the U.S., providing legal certainty to all Americans.”