Texas Agriculture March 17, 2017 : Page 12
Trump Executive Order Ditches WOTUS
EPA administrator changing course of rule
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Feb. 28 directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider their Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.
Trump’s executive order to ditch WOTUS is a welcome relief for farmers and ranchers across the country, according to American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall.
“The flawed WOTUS rule has proven to be nothing more than a federal land grab, aimed at telling farmers and ranchers how to run their businesses,” Duvall said. “The Environmental Protection Agency failed to listen to farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns when drafting the rule and instead created widespread confusion for agriculture. Under the rule, the smallest pond or ditch could be declared a federal waterway.”
And EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the new rule the agency will write will be more limited in reach and easier to administer.
He told AFBF’s Newsline that regulatory certainty is needed.
“The definition that was passed in 2015 transformed the authority, the jurisdiction, the power of the EPA in regulating water. And made the EPA the first stop when someone wanted to do what? Farm and ranch, oil and gas and build a subdivision, and that was never the intent of the Clean Water Act,” Pruitt said. “And I’m so thankful that the president and we have taken steps already to address the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction over puddles. They don’t have jurisdiction over dry creek beds, and the people across the country can rest assured that we’re going to get that fixed.”
The new administration, according to Agri-Pulse, wants to limit the law’s jurisdiction and interpret it the way late Justice Antonin Scalia ruled in the Supreme Court’s 2006 Rapanos decision, stating the law has jurisdiction only over “relatively permanent bodies of water.”
The Obama administration, however, had been following the guidance of Justin Anthony Kennedy. That opinion expanded the definition of navigable waters to include ditches, puddles and dry areas where there was evidence of water previously by a so-called significant nexus.
Pruitt told Agri-Pulse that the significant nexus terminology provided no objective criteria and was a case-by-case review.
“Rule-making and regulations ought to provide a framework…for people to make decisions, allocate resources and know what’s expected of them,” he said.
The controversial rule, which went into effect Aug. 28, 2015, was stayed nationwide by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2015.
It would have expanded the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act and placed undue burden on farmers and ranchers.
“EPA has too long been characterized by regulatory overreach that disregards the very positive conservation efforts of farmers and threatens their very way of life,” Duvall said.
Pruitt, according to the New York Times, led or took part in 14 lawsuits that intended to block EPA’s regulations.
Lawmakers also added their reactions to Trump’s executive order.
“Over the past eight years, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have repeatedly ignored the concerns of our nation’s farmers and ranchers in their quest to implement the WOTUS rule,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway said. “I applaud President Trump for taking the first steps to dismantle this egregious example of regulatory over-reach.”
But Pruitt said EPA will follow the rule-making process.
“We don’t have all the answers here, and when agencies pass rules, they need to know how it impacts people in all the states across the country and they need to hear from those people and respond to those folks and say ‘I hear you, and here’s how we’re going to address that and we think that’s an important point.’ That’s what rule-making should be about,” Pruitt said.
The executive order, however, does not legally remove WOTUS, which was enacted under former President Barack Obama. WOTUS will have to be removed through the same rule-making process by which it was enacted.