EPA sticks to regulatory power grab; rule withdrawal a ‘tiny step’
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will move forward with a vast expansion of the agency’s regulatory power with changes in the Clean Water Act. However, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) did announce the withdrawal of their waters of the U.S. “interpretive rule.”
That rule would have required federal permits for normal farming activities in and around newly defined “waters,” unless strict USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service practices were followed.
“This is a step in the right direction, but only a tiny one,” Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening responded. “EPA is still pursuing the much more invasive ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule.”
That rule greatly expands federal jurisdiction to include very small water bodies, flood plains and land that is not even wet most of the time. These newly classified “waters” are not currently subject to federal regulation. Farmers and ranchers nationwide, including Texas Farm Bureau, have voiced opposition.
EPA Director Gina McCarthy testified before a joint hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Transportation Committee that the agency is committed to moving forward with the “Waters of the U.S.” rule.
McCarthy insisted the purpose of the “Waters of the U.S.” rule was to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and not to expand federal authority. She said the rule was not final and acknowledged that changes would be needed in response to more than 900,000 comments.
Congress and the courts have repeatedly rejected EPA’s attempts to assume this scope of regulatory power. The agency is expected to finalize the “Waters of the U.S.” rule sometime this spring. McCarthy would not commit to a timeline.
“The Texas Farm Bureau remains opposed to this breathtaking overreach of federal authority,” Boening said.