IFB: WOTUS 'fatally flawed,' should be repealed

12 pages of comments, petition signed by more than 2,500 Illinois farmers submitted to EPA.

"Illinois farmers need to know what features on their lands are subject to federal jurisdiction and, by extension, whether their day-to-day farming operations are lawful,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. of the WOTUS rule. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)
"Illinois farmers need to know what features on their lands are subject to federal jurisdiction and, by extension, whether their day-to-day farming operations are lawful,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. of the WOTUS rule. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)
By Deana Stroisch

Calling the rule “fatally flawed,” Illinois Farm Bureau’s president called for its repeal and encouraged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

“The definition of WOTUS and the administration of the Clean Water Act have been a focal point of the agricultural community for decades,” Richard Guebert Jr. wrote to EPA. “Illinois farmers own and operate facilities, which produce row crops and livestock, that provide safe and affordable food, fiber and fuel to all Americans and the world. These operations are water-dependent enterprises. … Simply put, Illinois farmers need to know what features on their lands are subject to federal jurisdiction and, by extension, whether their day-to-day farming operations are lawful.”

On Monday, Illinois Farm Bureau submitted Guebert’s 12-page comments to EPA. Included with the comments: a petition signed by more than 2,500 Illinois farmers in support of the repeal effort.

IFB has spent years fighting the rule, believed to expand the agency’s jurisdiction beyond what Congress intended.

Developed by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers under President Barack Obama’s administration, the rule went into effect in August 2015. EPA maintained the rule more clearly defined which waters fall under federal jurisdiction and helps protect the country’s drinking water.

Various trade associations, states and environmental groups quickly challenged the rule. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a nationwide stay while it decides whether it has jurisdiction over the matter.

After taking office, President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing the EPA and Corps to review the rule. The agencies proposed two, separate rulemaking steps: rescinding the 2015 rule and re-codifying the pre-2015 language, and then revising the definition of WOTUS. Each has a separate comment period.

“Although IFB believes that recognition of the pre-2015 definition of ‘waters of the United States’ is appropriate for the time being in the wake of litigation … we do not view it as a long-term solution,” Guebert wrote. “The pre-2015 definitions, coupled with the agencies’ 2008 guidance and other policies, raise a number of issues and leave the door wide open to an impermissibly broad assertion of jurisdiction. Those issues can and should be addressed in a new rulemaking that actually serves the goal of providing clear and easy-to-administer definitions that allow members of the public and regualtors alike to readily differentiate between jurisdictional and nonjurisdictional water features.”

Duvall takes to Twitter to educate public on #WOTUS

With the comment deadline approaching, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall conducted a Twitter chat last week to educate the public about the “waters of the U.S.” rule. Highlights included:

#WOTUS was never about water. It was a federal land grab that infringed on the property rights of farmers. #DitchTheRuleChat

Lands regulated by #WOTUS generally cannot be used by farmers, ranchers or others without a federal permit. #DitchTheRuleChat

#WOTUS’ overreaching & vague terms = Impossible for farmers to know what parts of their land would be regulated. #DitchTheRuleChat

The biggest misconception is that #WOTUS regulates “waters.” @EPA said it wouldn’t cover farmlands. But the rule did. #DitchTheRuleChat

Farmers & ranchers want to maintain water quality w/o giving the federal gov't regulatory power over farmlands. #DitchTheRuleChat

Someone asked @zippyduvall: How may the rule affect those at the grocery store? Food prices? Etc.? Aside from farmers, what's the impact? #DitchTheRulechat

@zippyduvall replied: Less farming, less food, higher prices. #DitchTheRuleChat

Click here to read through the full comments made during the Twitter chat.

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